Every year in North America, more than 2,100 people are killed or seriously injured in collisions at rail crossings or as a result of trespassing on railway tracks or property. Many of those victims are young people who make the mistake of using the tracks as a shortcut—young people like Chris McGlynn.
On Oct 9, 2010, the 22-year-old was killed by a train in Cambridge, Ontario as he crossed the tracks on his way home from a night out. It was an unfortunate decision that ended his young life.
Although it’s been almost a decade since Chris’ death, his family still struggles with the loss. Their story is the subject of one of eight videos that will be featured in Operation Lifesaver’s 2019 #STOPTrackTragedies campaign during Rail Safety Week (September 23 to 29).
In the video, Chris’ mother, Shannon McGlynn, talks about his death and her family’s struggle to come to terms with it. Here is some of her conversation with Operation Lifesaver.
What can you tell me about the night Chris was killed?
He was living in Cambridge at the time with his dad and had gone out to a bar. He didn’t take his car because he was going with his friends, and they would be walking home. When they got to his friend Will’s house, Chris took Will’s bike and scooted off. Will said something like, “Hey, I need my bike tomorrow,” and Chris said, “I’ll see you tomorrow morning.” That was the last anyone saw him alive. As best as we know, he fell off the bike while crossing the tracks, hit his head, and the train came along and hit him.
How did you find out Chris had been hit by a train?
I had come home from working a night shift as a nurse, and my ex-husband had called and left a message that just said, “Call me.” He never calls, so I thought, “Something must be up.” So, I called him and he said there’d been an accident—that Chris had been on a bike and had been hit. I just said, “How is he?” and he said, “He’s dead.” And that’s it. It was very short and to the point and it changed my life forever.
How has his death affected you and the rest of your family?
It just leaves such a hole in your heart. And there’s such a physical pain with it. There’s always that empty chair at the table, that missing person at every family function. Our daughter has gotten married and has two children—he’s missed all of that. He’s missed seeing his brothers grow up. He’s missed seeing his older sister fall in love. It’s just changed so much in our family and it’s left such a hole for my husband Sean, my second husband, and I. There isn’t a moment in the day that I don’t think of him.
How has his death changed how you view tracks and trains?
I am always telling my family, “Make sure you abide by the train crossings.” Where we live, we don’t have a lot of trains. We’re in a small rural area and there are no trains coming here. But I worry about the city. When my son is in London, I say to him, be mindful when you come to a train crossing. I hate driving over them. It bothers me. Or, if I’m sitting there at a train crossing and the train goes by, it bothers me to think, “How did he not hear that coming?” But if you’re knocked out, you don’t, right?
What’s your message to young people who might consider using train tracks as a shortcut?
I think my message to youth is, “Don’t take that risk. Don’t trespass. Chris did and it cost us our son. It cost him his life. Please, please pay attention to train safety. Pay attention to the crossings and don’t be where you shouldn’t be.”
I feel like it’s youth who are more inclined to take those risks. Maybe they don’t get it or don’t understand that it’s a dangerous situation, I’m not sure. But I think they have an, “I’m infallible” attitude. “Nothing’s going to get me—I’m young, I’m strong. I’ve got the world by the tail.” And they don’t see that there could be a consequence to that. Chris was 22. He had the world by the tail and didn’t think anything was going to get him.