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Sunday February 26, 2012: A Day to Honour

March 1st 2012 by Marc Laliberté

On that day, over 15,000 people traveled on 51 trains all over Canada. It was just another day of travelling from or to work, schools, associates, families and friends. Just another day until 15:26 hours when Train 92 derailed west of Toronto resulting in the tragic death of three VIA Rail Locomotive Engineers: Ken Simmonds, Peter Snarr and Patrick Robinson. Of the 71 passengers on-board, 45 were transported to five local hospitals where five are still admitted and receiving care.

As my colleague John Marginson, our Chief Operating Officer expressed, “VIA Rail is a relatively small company but, we are a big family”. As its President & CEO, I lead a team of executives that together influence many things, make many decisions and are entrusted with the authority to manage the corporation’s affairs and ensure it provides Canadians with safe, reliable inter-city train transportation. On that day, at that moment, we all shared a deep sense of helplessness over an event with such tragic consequence for members of the entire VIA Rail family, our passengers and their families.

Looking back to that moment and the hours since, I realize that although we may feel helpless in the face of such adversity, it is what we do next that defines us. And, it may also be what best honours those who lost their lives. From the VIA Rail team on-board and other passengers who assisted the injured; the emergency personnel and members of the public who rushed to the scene to offer assistance; VIA Rail off-duty workers who came in to attend at hospitals, provide information to injured passengers and families; our railway partners and business associates, suppliers, customers and other well-wishers who took the time to write or post comments online and express their sympathy for our loss and offer prayers for the families of the victims. All demonstrated through their actions, the strength, courage, kindness and compassion that in many ways, best describe our three fallen colleagues. All who have worked with them have witnessed in each of them, these qualities. They were spouses and fathers, family and community members and they were proud VIA Rail locomotive engineers. Our prayers and thoughts are with their families and loved ones.

In my own 32-year career in Canada’s railways, I have never experienced so much pain and sadness and like my colleagues, so much helplessness in a position of so much authority. But I know we will all remember that day, Sunday February 26, 2012, and as we move forward, the memory of these events will sustain our continued efforts and commitment to safety of train travel for our passengers, our employees and all Canadians. For that is the best way to honour the memory of Ken, Peter and Patrick.

About Marc Laliberté

Marc Laliberté
Marc Laliberté was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer at VIA Rail Canada in January 2010. Mr. Laliberté has worked in the railway sector for more than 30 years.
52 Comments Leave one →
  1. Deeply saddened by last Sunday’s events. I take VIA Rail regularly in the busy Windsor- Quebec City corridor. It is my favourite way to beat traffic on the 401.

  2. Debra-Lynn Bellefeuille permalink

    As a former employee of Canadian National Railways (1980-1985) and a friend of Patrick Robinson my sympathies to Pat’s children and family and to the families of his collegues who lost thier lives, our prayers are with you and have been blessed to have known you…never forgotten.


  3. I am very sorry to hear of this accident and the loss of life. I’m praying for God’s peace and comfort for the families who lost their brother, spouse, father and friend. I want to again thank your staff for assisting me while I travel in my wheelchair. Each of you have been wonderful to me. Ron Piggott

  4. Grant permalink

    Hi VIA

    What’s the PR spin machine going to do now? Your home paying “thank you” seems a little cheeky now.


    • Lisa permalink

      You’re right Grant. How dare they pay their respects, and offer condolences. What jerks. Sarcasm, by the way.

      • Dale permalink

        Thank you, Lisa. Let us show a little respect, Grant.

    • Michael Davidson permalink

      That’s a bit unfair! We know the train was going over the speed limit through the switch, but even the TSB said today we don’t know WHY that happened. Was the switch working? Were the signals working? Those questions still remain to be answered before we can blame Via or its employees for this. And in any case, this is not about “PR” spin. Seems to me Via’s president was expressing his feelings on this matter. Three employees died. This is not the time or place to be nasty and make unfounded and uninformed statements.

    • Denise permalink

      What an ignoramous you are, Grant.

      My thoughts and condolences to the families and friends of the deceased. To those injured, I hope you have a speedy recovery. I will keep you in my prayers.

      To the VIA Rail family, you are all in my thoughts.

  5. Richard Marginson permalink

    Hello Grant,

    Thank you for your comment. We trust well-wishers will understand the spirit in which we thank them for their support.

    Richard Marginson, Community Manager
    VIA Rail

  6. tammy permalink

    im sorry for your lost of thoes men i hope poeple dont put the blame on them

  7. Samuel Shear permalink

    As a die-hard and seasoned railfan, I applaud the efforts by the train crew to make sure that all the passengers were all right. To the dead, my heart goes out to their families.

  8. Sherri permalink

    As a member of a family of rail fans, I know the beauty of the railway, as well as its dangers. Those men did too. I am sure when they set out that day at work, they weren’t thinking “today is the day I want to go as fast as I can, endanger my passengers and probably die”. Look for ways to learn from this, not ways to blame.

  9. Susan King permalink

    I was so horrified and saddened to hear of the tragic accident. I had been travelling on train 55 to Toronto from Ottawa just the day before. I know how safe and reliable the VIA trains are and it was so shocking to hear about this. My heart goes out to the families of the victims as well as the many VIA Rail employees who lost their friends. I wish to offer my condolences and support to all those who were affected.

  10. Jennifer permalink

    I can’t even begin to imagine what everyone on that train went through. My sympathies to the injured. I wish you a speedy recovery. My condolences to Via Rail Canada and to the families of the three employees lost that day. RIP.

  11. I will be taking The Canadian Train soon. As a US citizen, it is nice to here such kind words from a CEO. I think if that happened here, a letter like that either wouldn’t be posted, or it would be thoroughly lawyered for proper wording. Maybe the Canadians just have more heart, and have learned something in their social healthcare system that radiates throughout. I am deeply sorry for your loss.

  12. Scott permalink

    A very sad day. I take trains regularly and understand what is meant by VIA Rail being a family. That day, just one hour before the tragic accident, I had completed a trip on train 55 from Casselman to Kingston. It’s saddening to think at the same time I was unpacking my suitcase in Kingston, thinking about how much I love travelling by train, that there were people who died aboard train 92.

  13. Doug Boulton permalink

    As a regular passenger on The Canadian I feel very saddened by this tragic loss in our community. From my numerous travels and conversations with Via Rail employees I feel compelled to tell you all I have full confidence in your commitment to safety. The professionalism you display every day keeps me and my family riding your trains. While this tragic event saddens me greatly, I am confident we can, and will, learn from this. I have always trusted Via Rail Canada and can say without hesitation we have a passenger rail service in Canada that we can all be proud of.

  14. Deborah permalink

    Our condolences go out to the families that have lost their loved ones .

    As for VIA, I travel by train at least 3 to 4 times a month, each and every month.

    I am on trains 84 and 85.

    Anyways I want to make VIA aware about speeding trains, a few months ago I was on route to London and while sitting in my seat I had noticed that the train seemed to be going extremely fast, something I haven`t experienced before, and as a rail rider every month, and knowing the daily routine and grind, one picks up on these things, I was shocked we were flying down the tracks, I even told my family members of how fast the train was, it was something that normally doesn’t happen. When I seen the derailment on CP24 right away I said this happened because the train was speeding.

    VIA and CN I think maybe you should take some time and reeducate your conductors on protocols and especially safety, you may not be aware of what your conductors are doing on the tracks and they think they can get away with it in wide open spaces.

  15. Christopher Leigh permalink

    I was deeply saddened to hear of this tragedy from a friend who works for VIA Rail. As a railway journalist for nearly 50 years I have read and written about accidents from time to time in the course of my work. There is always one common factor – the appalling sadness of a succession of minor events unfolding into tragedy. Please ignore the mindless rantings of those with no understanding of the facts and no shred of sympathy for others.
    I await with interest the outcome of the full report and in the meantime offer my condolences to the families of those who died or suffered in this accident. The excellent, but never perfect, safety record of rail travel has been built on learning from such tragedies, for we can never entirely eliminate human error.
    May the three gentlemen who died rest in peace.

  16. Fouzia permalink

    I take via rail every week five times between Windsor and Aldershot.
    I always appreciate the service that via provides. I feel very sad for the people who died and injured in the accident. My prayers are for them and their families.

  17. Doris Garvin permalink

    My hearfelt sympathy to the families who lost their loved one in this tragic accident. I pray that they, & all who was affected by this, find peace. My thoughts & prayers are with you..

  18. It has been heartwarming to see the outpouring of condolences and sympathy here and on VIA’s Facebook page for the crew and passengers of 92. VIA has evidently succeeded in creating a family atmosphere among its crew and passengers.

  19. Daysi permalink

    I wish to express my condolences to each and every family member of your valued employees and friends. May God grant all of you the strength to go on and endure your loss. At this difficult time I want to let you know that you have not only your VIA family behind you but many kind, compassionate individuals that are thinking of you and how this unfortunate accident affected your lives forever. We must be grateful to all those that got a chance to help all those affected and discourage those who wish to make sarcastic comments with regards to the accident. Some people do need lessons in respect, compassion and empathy. Although 3 lives were lost we must be grateful that it was not worst. To your fallen comrades, may they rest in peace. God bless!

  20. Christine permalink

    My condolences to the families and their friends at Via.

    I love taking the train and was planning a trip out West this summer with Via Rail and still plan on doing so.

  21. Judy permalink

    My heart goes out to all those involved in the accident last Sunday, it is a sad day indeed.
    I have always traveled with Via and I WILL continue to travel with Via, it is by far the best and in my eyes the safest way to travel! had this been an airplane more if not all would have died!
    Via has an excellent safety record, it is a rare that they have an accident, and I trust them 100% with my travel and that of my daughter!
    Thank you via for always providing me and my family with great service!

  22. John permalink

    We will soon be taking VIA cross country and back for the third time. Traveling on The Canadian leg of the trip truly captures the saying that getting there is half the fun, and, we have felt, one of the safest ways to travel. This unfortunate accident has not changed our mind in the slightest. Our condolences to the families, friends and fellow workers of those who lost their lives.

  23. Jason permalink

    As the son of a retired VIA & CN Locomotive Engineer and a current CN employee myself; I feel deeply saddened by this tragic event. My sympathies to the familes of your lost employees and let them know that the entire railway family feels your pain and is standing with you!

  24. Dinesh permalink

    My heart goes to the family. My deepest condolences …

  25. My Sympathies to the three Via Rail employees. My daughter travel regularly to Ottawa Carleton University and having worket at Via Rail TMC I know the people take pride in their work and are dedicated employees.
    Having worked under John Marginson I know he is a railroad professional dedicated to keeping VIA equipment operating safely.
    A tragic event for all.

  26. Rod permalink

    It is with deep sadness I offer my sympathy to the engineers who died and the Via family. My family has a long relationship with rail service and my own grandfather was a engineer on one of the last steam locomotives in eastern canada. I myself have traveled over 20,000 kms in the last 8 moths by train and will continue to ride the rail service because of the dedication of the Via family provides to its customers and myself. Lets hope something positive will come from this tragedy. Thank you for the service you provide.

  27. Carol Mackenzie permalink

    I was in Brantford, waiting for a train to Toronto this last Sunday, and was called over with others waiting to the counter where the Via employee calmly explained that there had been a train derailment at Aldershot and we would be cabbed to Toronto. 10 minutes later 6 of us were in a van heading to Toronto. I was very impressed with the organized, professional manner that we were dealt with, even though it was only 45 minutes after the accident. I love the train, will continue to travel by train, and continue to encourage others to do so.

  28. Donna permalink

    I travel with Via several times a year and love it. However I often wonder why seatbelts are not mandatory. Perhaps many of the passengers’ injuries could have been prevented. My condolences for those who lost their loved ones. And I appreciate the letter by M. Laliberte.

  29. Kristin permalink

    I am so sorry to hear about this terrible tragedy. My heart goes out to the families and friends of the engineers who died in this horrible accident, as well as the injured passengers. As an American, I travel the ViaRail Windsor-Montreal corridor regularly to visit my daughter at university. I have always been impressed by the excellent service provided by ViaRail personnel: on the trains, at the stations, and on the telephone. I will be traveling ViaRail again in a few days – it remains the safest, greenest, most reliable and convenient way to travel from Windsor to downtown Montreal.

  30. As a customer of and supplier to VIA, my sincere condolences to those who lost their lives and to the their families and colleagues. A loss like this is devastating to a company, large or small. The response from the CEO and senior management speaks to the personal touch the organization has. Classy and genuine.

  31. Jenny Cooper permalink

    My thoughts and prayers are with the families who tragically lost their loved ones in this accident.

  32. Lori permalink

    I am booking my first Via Train Vacation. My heart goes out to the families that lost loved ones. I now Via will learn from this accident and implement procedures to make travel on their trains even safer. Blessings and love to the Via staff and employee’s.

  33. Emile Poirier permalink

    Well said Marc, as a past and future customer of Via, this was a sad day for the Via family. Via rail may be a small company but I have to give you top marks for your handling of this issue. You were giving information right from the start and didn’t hide anything, people forget that accidents happen and are far too quick to blame, in this case you had three well experienced individuals in ther engine and I’m sure there is an explanation as to what happened and regardless of the outcome, the Via family is a class act and I look forward to my next trip on Via!!!!

  34. Matt M permalink

    Please accept my deepest condolences. I take the train a few times a year and still know that there is no safer way to travel. I know that Via lost 3 very competent colleagues last week. My heart goes out to the family.

  35. Gilbert permalink

    Heartfelt sympathies to the victims of this tragic event. This is truly sad for all.

    For the Record – VIA Rail is comprised of very dedicated, loyal employees. Having travelled/commuted for the past 14 years, I can attest to their professionalism and commitment to issue resolution each and every day.

  36. Pete Dillon permalink

    My condolences to the families of the engineers who were taken from us on Feb 26. I have been a via customer for years and everytime i got on board they made you feel good. they have always gotten me to my destination safe and sound and i hope a accident like this never happens again.

  37. I rely on VIA and this incident has changed nothing insofar as my confidence in the rail service is concerned. Transportation will have accidents; that is life. I am sorry that this accident took three lives and had such a devastating effect on families and colleagues.

    I don’t think many of us say “thank you” often enough for the safe, reliable and civilized service we depend on from VIA. VIA makes our lives easier and safer. What you do matters, and is important.

    Thank you.

  38. Steve C. permalink

    May God Bless.

  39. James I. Keenan Jr. permalink

    On Feb. 18, 2012, I boarded Train 1 in Toronto en routr to Vancouver. On Feb 26, 2012 I was on tha Amtrak California Zephyr from Sacramento, Cal. to Chicago, Ill. I did not see current newspapers and only saw a small report of the Via wreck. I have ridden Via trains for the past 30 years. My experience with Via has been exceptional. While I don’t know the details of the Feb. 26, 2012 disaster, I do sympathize with the families of those who lost their lives.Please believe that there is at least one American who loves the people of Canada,loves the Via employees, mourns this loss with all Canasians, and will pray for the souls of the departed. Jim Keenan

  40. David Anderson permalink

    My prayers and deepest sympathies go out to the families of of Ken, Peter and Patrick.

  41. Rod Case permalink

    As some one who has worked in many roles at railways and have spent many miles in the cab of a locomotive, I can only say that my heart goes out to those men who lost their lives. The men and women of railways are well trained and tested professionals who take safety very seriously. Railroads are not the area for amateurs. As a member of the railway brotherhood, my prayers are with these men’s families. Thank you to VIA for maintaining the heart and pride of a small company by the release of this letter.

  42. Arthur Berry permalink

    My Aunt and I are taken the train from Totonto To Halifax July 25 and returning Aug. 2012 for a family wedding
    My thoughts and prayers are with the ones who lost love ones and to thoes who were hurt.

  43. Robert Assaly permalink

    Thanks to the VIA President for his compassionate remarks in a difficult time. For those of us who are just VIA customers, it is easy to move on. My prayers for the families of the three crewmen and the injured passengers, and the VIA employees and leadership.

    Thanks again for putting the message on the website. I am on the site to make a booking, and glad the message was there.

  44. Kristy permalink

    I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the families and friends and victims touched by this tragedy, as well as the far reaching family that is VIA Rail!

    I am confident that your passengers and your VIA family will rise from this tragedy stronger than ever!

    My thoughts and prayers are with all!

  45. Firstly my condolences to the families that have lost loved ones and to the passengers that went through this horrible crash. I am happy to see that Via gives recognition to such devastation and the pain it causes. Having lost loved ones to a Via train myself ( Not an employee mind you) I got to see the Via PR machine in motion. It is heartless and self serving and ever so destructive to families involved. It out right causes significant pain on top of the already unimaginable pain from the tragedy itself. So I do understand Grant’s comment ever so well. We too buried three loved ones and Via just slammed the families already destroyed. No, we were not part of the brotherhood that was for some reason speeding which in turn caused this tragedy. All the same Via should be this way with all victims of their rails. This brotherhood could have killed many more through it’s actions and yet Via felt it necessary to do this blog in their memory. I and others affected by loss of loved ones hurt the very same way, whole families are grieving when the Via spin factory gets warmed up. Why the double standard? Shame on Via for not caring about anyone outside of the brotherhood…all families should be treated with respect and sympathy it is the only way to keep the company honorable. My heart does go to the families as I know only to well what this kind of tragedy does. Some solutions may be to slow down the trains in areas coming up on a switch or where dangerous conditions exist. That type of adjustment would save lives. There are many areas of safety that need improvement and as I see the responses from Via they are never addressed so it is only a matter of time before this happens again.

    My heart goes to all affected and my prayers go to Via..only you can make this high number of victims list smaller by improving railway safety. Stop the pain being caused to Canadian Citizens.

    Heart broken once again

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Burlington derailment Via Rail train was going four times faster than allowed | News | National Post
  2. Burlington derailment: Investigators, passengers seek answers why Via Rail train in fatal crash was speeding | News | National Post

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