Partner calls for changes to rail crossing where man in wheelchair was killed
A Chilliwack, B.C. woman is calling for safety improvements to a railway crossing where her longtime partner was struck and killed after his wheelchair became stuck in the tracks.
Matthew Jarvis was on his way to a 7-Eleven just blocks away from his home on May 26 when his motorized wheelchair stopped directly in the path of an oncoming train.
Two women jumped out of their vehicles and tried their best to help get the father of three off the tracks, but in the end, their frenzied efforts weren't enough.
Now, Valerie Schneider is calling for changes to the crossing to prevent a similar death in the future, adding that she believes the death of her partner of 15 years could have been prevented.
"The size of Matthew's wheels could not have fit in the missing grooves on the tracks if they were filled." she told CTV News Tuesday. "It's physically impossible."
Schneider took several photos back in May of the gaps where Broadway meets the train tracks. That's where she says Jarvis's wheels got stuck.
"We just couldn't get those front wheels to move," Julie Callaghan, one of the women who tried to help, told CTV News days after Jarvis's death. "We just couldn't get the momentum to even get him out."
Callaghan stayed by Jarvis's side for so long that one of her hands was hit by the train, leaving her with shattered knuckles, broken bones and torn tendons. The other woman was physically unharmed.
Transport Canada told CTV News it inspected the crossing after the crash and sent "letters of non-compliance" to rail owner Canadian National Railway to resolve what it called "safety concerns."
The City of Chilliwack said it received a "letter of concern" from the government department suggesting that road markings be added to the crossing to improve safety for pedestrians. A city spokesperson told TV News the new lines were painted on Tuesday.
CN crews were also seen doing maintenance on the crossing Tuesday. The work included pulling out rubber strips, installing new ones and pouring asphalt in the gaps between the rail and road.
The company, however, said the improvements were not in response to the accident, but a matter of routine maintenance.
"The work performed at the Broadway crossing today in Chilliwack would not have had an effect on the May incident as the maintenance done involved a different section of the crossing and its surface," the statement read. "Crossing inspections are done multiple times a week as part of regular track inspections."
The train collision is still under investigation by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, CN added.
In the meantime, Schneider said she'll do everything in her power to stop such a tragedy from happening again.
"It's no longer just my fight," she said. "I'm fighting for everybody so that Matthew's death stands for something. No more people need to die."