Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Train kills man, dogs

Tamara Cherry - Toronto Sun

In a fateful effort to save his dogs, a man was killed yesterday during a morning walk along busy train tracks frequented by Summerhill residents.
A long whistle rang through the neighbourhood southwest of Yonge St. and St. Clair Ave. just after 8 a.m. -- a warning by a CP freight train operator that would prove fruitless.
The 64-year-old father and husband was out for a routine walk along the south side of the tracks that run between Shaftesbury Ave. and his Scrivener Square home when his two off-leash King Charles spaniels ran in front of an approaching westbound train.
His attempt to save the pets proved fatal for all three.
When police arrived the man and one of the dogs was dead. The second dog was in such distress that an officer chose to euthanize it at the scene, Toronto Police Insp. Joanna Beaven said.
"It's a tragedy," Beaven said. "I mean, the male was just out walking his dogs and he was going to save his pet and lost his life in doing so."
The incident acts as a grim reminder to stay away from the tracks, which are, for the most part, blocked off by fences on both the north and south side, Sgt. Tim Burrows said.
But residents said the land along the tracks is a common shortcut for walkers going to adjoining neighbourhoods, such as Moore Park and Rosedale, and efforts to patch up gaps in the fence are futile.
"It never, never lasts long," Bojan Vitko said of the chunks of chain-linked fence that have been pulled back by those who frequent the area. "It's so convenient between this neighbourhood and the other neighbourhoods."
Two such gaps in the north fence could be found, while plastic fencing used to replace a hole in the south side, near the man's home, had been ripped open. Further down the tracks on the south side, there was no fence separating the tracks from the residential neighbourhood and nearby playground.
"I'm just cutting through," said one woman, who passed from the north side of the tracks to the south side, before the man's body had even been cleared from the scene. "I do it all the time."
"It's a natural path. This is a completely natural crossing right here," said Vitko, an area resident of 30 years. "If there was a safe footpath, it would be used a lot."
"Most of the time you walk out there and you can see so far down either way that you think you're safe," said Tara Wells, who used to cross the tracks on her way to work. "They (trains) are so often. You can hear them all the time or you can even feel the vibrations."
"Easily," resident David Hartman said of access to the tracks. "People walk across all the time."
"I'm familiar with these trains and they only blow the whistle when there's somebody on the tracks," Hartman said. "I heard a long whistle this morning."
"Unfortunately this is a stark reminder why we don't want people near railway tracks, why it is against the law to be on the railway property lines and how dangerous it really is," Burrows said. "We're not talking about a child that made a poor decision, and in the protection of his animals, paid the price for that."

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