Woman struck and killed by train in Athalmer

Victim struck by handrail near front of train; alcohol believed to be a factor.

A CP rail locomotive.

A CP rail locomotive.

The BC Coroners Service have identified a 50-year-old Invermere woman killed as a result of being struck by a southbound train near 4th Avenue and Borden Street in Athalmer last Tuesday (February 20.)

Carmen Denise Salazar was attempting to cross train tracks south of the Borden Street rail crossing with a friend just before 6:50 p.m. when she was struck by a handrail near the front of the train.

“First and foremost, our company’s heartfelt sympathies go out to the family and friends of the fatally injured woman,” said Kevin Hrysak, spokesperson for CP Rail. “It was indicated that the women were crossing the tracks in the area and upon our approaching section our crews did try to make their attention aware by sounding the whistle, but unfortunately they did make contact with one of the individuals, which resulted in this tragic fatality.”

The victim was heading from one friend’s home to another home when she tried to cross the tracks in front of the approaching train, which was estimated to be traveling at close to 60 kilometres per hour.

That speed limit is enforced by CPR for trains traveling through residential areas, said Cpl. Grant Simpson of the Columbia Valley RCMP.

“The victim was just clipped,” he added. “It appeared as though she thought she had enough room to allow the train to go by, but a portion of the locomotive actually just clipped her.”

The Invermere woman’s companion, who tripped before she was able to cross the tracks, did not

witness the death of her friend. After the impact, the locomotive came to a stop.

“She had fallen and was kind of face down and didn’t see what happened and couldn’t find her friend,” Simpson explained. “The girl who was with the victim ran up to the locomotive and asked, ‘Did you hit somebody?’ because she couldn’t find her friend.”

Members of the Columbia Valley detachment, CPR police and Invermere Fire Rescue attended the scene, but did not begin emergency resuscitation procedures because it was clear that the victim had succumbed to her injuries.

Salazar has adult children and a large extended family in the area, Simpson said.

“I can imagine the impact [on the community] is going to be fairly significant,” he said. “Hopefully, we can take something from this and treat it as a learning experience and hopefully the public will realize the dangers involved with trying to cross the tracks.”

The Columbia Valley detachment, CPR, police and the BC Coroners Service are currently investigating the accident in which alcohol was believed to be a factor.

“There is an ongoing investigation at this point — just some loose ends to tie up,” said Simpson. “As far as we are concerned, it is pretty straightforward.”

The train crew involved in the tragedy have been relieved of duty as part of CP protocol, Hrysak added.

“Situations like this are extremely hard on our crews as well because they are always the first ones on the scene and this can have a traumatic emotional effect on them,” he said. “In situations such as this we will relieve them of duty and then follow up with any kind of stress counseling if they choose to accept it or not.”

The last train-related death in the area happened in June 2010, claiming the life of respected Invermere doctor Johnson Albert Rose. He was killed while trying to cross over a coupled train stopped near 4th Avenue and Laurier Street in Invermere. The train suddenly lurched forward, knocking Rose underneath.

“The community must realize the dangers involved in trying to cross any railway track; whether you can see a train or not, there are other inherent dangers as well,” Simpson warned.