'Nobody should die like this': Family mourns Chilliwack father whose wheelchair got stuck in train tracks
May 28 update: A Good Samaritan spoke exclusively to CTV News about her efforts to save the man stuck on the tracks.
The family of a man who was in a wheelchair when he was hit and killed by a train in Chilliwack is thanking two women who tried to save him and demanding changes to make railway crossings safer.
Matthew Jarvis, 40, left his home Saturday afternoon on his motorized wheelchair to make the short trip to a nearby 7-Eleven for a slushie. He had to cross the train tracks three blocks from his house like he has countless times before.
But that day, his journey ended in tragedy.
Somehow his wheelchair got stuck in the tracks, his partner Valerie Schneider told CTV News. Two women tried to help get him free, but they had to jump out of the way when an oncoming train approached blasting its whistle.
One didn't move fast enough, and was taken to hospital after the train hit her arm.
Jarvis, a parent to three kids, died on scene.
"Some angels of God tried to help him," Schneider said. "And whoever you are, I thank you. My family thanks you from the bottom of our hearts."
She thinks it's some relief that Jarvis wasn't alone in his last moments.
A K-9 guard and a loving father
Jarvis had been using the motorized wheelchair ever since a car crash in January 2017 that fractured the vertebrae between his shoulder blades and left his spinal column bruised. The cord of nervous tissue wasn't severed, so Schneider said there was hope he might walk again one day.
"He was the proof that anybody could get through anything if they just had the willpower to live," she said.
He had just started university to upgrade his courses and figure out what his new career would be. Prior to the crash, he was a K-9 security guard with a German Shepherd partner that sniffed out bombs.
Jarvis was also a talented soccer player who doted on his kids.
Family and neighbours say crossing dangerous
Although Schneider is still reeling from the sudden loss of her partner, she's already sure of one thing: she wants to see improved safety features at the crossing so a "senseless accident" like what happened to Jarvis doesn't happen again.
"I'm not going to stop until there's change," she said. "Nobody should die like this."
Neighbour William Anderson who also lives near the tracks said he sees trains put people in danger "all the time."
"They're coming really fast, and they don't slow down," he said.
He knew something was wrong on Saturday when he heard the train blow its horn. They don't normally do that when they go by, he said.
Schneider said she doesn't understand why conductors can't be notified earlier that people are on the tracks using sensors or cameras. She thinks maybe it could help them have more time to stop.
Police from CN are working with the RCMP on the investigation, and the railway company said the conductor of the train was not injured in the collision.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Breanna Karstens-Smith