A tragic reminder of why trains and headphones are a deadly mixture

Losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare—and it’s one Miranda Williams has lived for the past four years.

In October 2014, her 16-year-old daughter, Tiffany, was hit and killed by a train while walking along the tracks near her home in Maple Ridge, B.C. She didn’t hear the train’s warning whistle because she was wearing headphones.

The grade 11 student was full of life, always laughing and smiling—and like many teens, was always taking selfies.  Her mother says she had a heart of gold. But a simple decision to walk along train tracks ended her life—one that has haunted Tiffany’s family for the past four years.

Their story is featured in one of seven videos that are part of Operation Lifesaver’s #STOPTrackTragedies campaign. Each video tells the personal—and often heartbreaking—story of someone affected by a rail incident. A new video will be launched each day during Rail Safety Week from September 23rd to 29th, 2018. The videos are a harsh reminder of the ripple effect a rail incident has—from the victims themselves, to their parents and friends, to the locomotive engineers involved, and the emergency responders who arrive on the scene.
In Miranda Williams’ video, she talks about Tiffany’s death and her family’s struggle to come to terms with it. Here is some of her conversation with Operation Lifesaver.

How did you find out about Tiffany’s accident?

I lived right around the corner from the tracks and I could see the accident from my living room window. I drove by a few times and didn’t realize it was her. I just kept texting her and calling her. Finally, I phoned again and a man answered and identified himself as a constable. He said there was an accident. And I was like, “What kind of accident?” and he wouldn’t tell me over the phone. But I knew it wasn’t good news.

From what the RCMP officer told me, she was walking alongside the tracks, not actually on the tracks. The cop that had to watch the train’s video thinks she just didn’t hear it coming up behind her. He said if she had been just an inch and a half further from the track, she would never have been hit. And that’s a hard pill to swallow.

How much thought had you given to the tracks across from your house before that day?

Oh, all my kids know not to walk on the tracks, to follow the rules that are up. I think she was just taking a shortcut home. She never walked those tracks before, so it was kind of odd.
But she knew the consequences, she knew what could happen.

She did have a hearing problem in one ear, plus she had her earbuds in, so that didn’t help. When they found her, they said the music was pretty loud, so she had two strikes against her.

How common was it for Tiffany to wear headphones?

She usually only wore them if she was walking to the bus stop or on the bus. If she was at home, or in the car, there were no earbuds. I actually told her to keep one headphone out for this reason and others. Even with my other daughter, I tell her all the time, leave one earbud out when you’re walking down the road. I try to tell them, stay on the opposite side, walk against the traffic, don’t ever have your back to the traffic.

How has her death affected you and your other children?

I still don’t like the sound of trains. My heart just kind of seizes up. I’m not the same. I'm always on edge. I try to do things for my other daughter because she is the only child I have left at home. I have my older son, but she’s the younger one and I worry about her. This has affected her whole entire life, because she and her sister were inseparable. She’s having issues in school and in life generally. She’s been kicked out of school for not going, and not being able to focus or concentrate. It’s affected me pretty badly I guess. I still haven’t dealt with it. I’m on stress leave because of everything going on with my daughter now. I just started counselling, and I’ve got her into counselling. Hopefully it will all work out.