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HomeBusinessSkyTrain incident report explains why all Burnaby Expo Line stations were temporarily closed on April 17

SkyTrain incident report explains why all Burnaby Expo Line stations were temporarily closed on April 17

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Bob Mackin 

While TransLink officials were reacting to the lack of funding in the Liberal government’s new budget, SkyTrain staff were waiting for a coroner to arrive after discovering a body on tracks. 

A timeline from April 17 by TransLink’s B.C. Rapid Transit Company rail division, obtained under the freedom of information law, said a vehicle technician noticed blood on the side of six-car train number 106 before 10 a.m. near Scott Road station in Surrey. The technician confirmed the parts that collect electricity from the power rail, known as the collector assemblies, were broken.

Metrotown Station (Fast and App)

An attendant was asked to ride a train from the front seat from New Westminster’s Columbia station to Scott Road to determine the cause of the damage. But, at 10:12 a.m., a control centre employee who reviewed surveillance camera footage reported finding evidence of human contact with a train at Metrotown Station on the outbound side, where Surrey-bound trains travel.  

An attendant was permitted to enter the track to investigate. At 10:17 a.m., field staff confirmed a body was found near a track switch, known internally as DC23, which is east of Metrotown station on the outbound side.

TransLink’s biohazard cleaning contractor was notified, staff closed Metrotown Station at 10:23 a.m. and temporarily stopped service between Patterson and Royal Oak stations. Shuttle buses were activated. 

Transit Police arrived at 10:41 a.m. Fire crews attended almost an hour later, but they stayed only six minutes. 

The coroner was on-scene at 12:10 p.m. and entered the guideway toward switch DC23 with Transit Police. They exited the guideway at 1:06 p.m. with the body. The cleaning contractor finished its work and exited the guideway by 2:12 p.m. 

Sixteen minutes later, at 2:28 p.m., Expo Line service was allowed to return to normal. 

The timeline also showed that a three-minute segment of video, recorded just before 6 a.m. on April 17, was protected for evidence. That suggests the victim was in the area almost four hours before the body was discovered. 

“Only the coroner can determine the official cause of death,” said Transit Police public information officer Const. Amanda Steed. “Our investigation is not yet concluded.”

Two days after the incident, TransLink spokesperson Tina Lovegreen said that “the position of switches and the need to isolate the area meant that closing Joyce-Collingwood to Edmonds was the shortest span that could be closed.” Lovegreen did not mention the collision or the body. 

Meanwhile, in an 11:30 a.m. news conference at Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver on April 17, NDP Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming and TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn announced a $300 million provincial infusion to buy more buses and add SeaBus sailings. They also reacted to being snubbed by the Trudeau Liberal government a day earlier. 

Unlike newer systems, no SkyTrain station has a safety barrier or sliding doors between the platform and track area. 

After a 2014 consultant’s report, TransLink improved platform surveillance cameras on the Expo and Millennium lines in 2021 as part of a $79 million program. It is now studying the feasibility of adding platform safety barriers, but that report is not due until 2025. 

A coroner’s report on the 2001 death of a male at Royal Oak station quoted a 1994 study that estimated the cost of installing platform barriers at $1.7 million to $2.2 million per station, now worth $3.15 million to $4.07 million after inflation. Coroner Liana Wright suggested a low-cost solution: limiting access to platforms until trains come to a full stop.

On Nov. 13 last year, a 41-year-old male was fatally struck by a SkyTrain at Surrey Central station. Transit Police said it was an accident.

That was the 109th death on SkyTrain tracks, 84% of which by suicide and 15% by accident. The remaining 1% were classified as undetermined. 

Just over a week later, on Nov. 21, emergency crews at Main Street-Science World station rescued a female who had fallen under a train after a quarrel near the station’s west side entrance. 

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