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Two Manitoba First Nations are in mourning after three men were killed, and another severely injured, when their van was hit by a train east of Strathclair on Tuesday.
The four men were employed by Russell Redi-Mix Concrete.
Waywayseecappo First Nation Chief Murray Clearsky said his community is grieving the loss of 25-year-old Trevor Bone, whom he described as a hard-working father of three young children.
"Everybody knew him here," Clearsky said. "People that know him, along with us here, are grieving about it.
"It’s just too bad. There were three of them that got killed in that accident and my condolences go out to their families as well."
Many in Waywayseecappo, approximately 30 kilometres east of Russell, have connections to Russell Redi-Mix Concrete and its parent company, Coco Group Inc., as the company often hires its members, Clearsky said. The tragic loss is resonating in the community, he said, and added the company has reached out to offer support.
On social media, friends and family members identified one of the victims as Phil Houle Jr.
Sandy Bay First Nation Chief Lance Roulette said the community on the western shore of Lake Manitoba is stricken by grief and in shock over the passing of a "good friend" and community member.
Manitoba RCMP say officers with the Yellowhead detachment and Canadian Pacific Police responded to a collision between a train and a passenger van at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday at Road 126 West, a kilometre east of Strathclair, which is approximately 90 kilometres northwest of Brandon.
The investigation has determined a 27-year-old from Dauphin was driving the van northbound on Road 126W, a gravel road that intersects both the CP rail line and the Yellowhead Highway. Bone and his co-workers, a 45-year-old from Sandy Bay First Nation, and a 19-year-old from Dauphin, were passengers.
Police believe a westbound Canadian Pacific train consisting of two engines struck the van at the uncontrolled, at-grade rail crossing, approximately 30 metres from the highway.
The driver was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries and later airlifted by STARS Air Ambulance from Minnedosa Hospital to Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg in stable condition. RCMP Cpl. Julie Courchaine said as of noon Wednesday the driver was in stable condition and was expected to make a full recovery.
The passengers were pronounced dead at the scene, police said. Officers from the Yellowhead detachment, along with a forensic collision reconstructionist, continue to assist CP Police in the investigation.
Anthony Rossi, director of land development and government relations with Coco Group, confirmed the four men were employed by Russell Redi-Mix Concrete, a division of the company that’s doing roadwork on Highway 16 from Highway 21 to Provincial Road 250.
"Our thoughts and prayers are 100 per cent with the family and friends, and all the employees from the crew who worked with them, anybody who has been impacted by this tragic accident," Rossi said Wednesday. "Really, it was a difficult scene, I understand, and difficult for everyone involved."
With a police investigation ongoing, Rossi said he couldn’t comment on whether the men were working at the time of the crash or if they were in a company vehicle.
"We’re fully co-operating with any investigations that are required," he said.
A spokesman for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said the crash has been reported to the independent agency, which investigates rail transportation incidents, and it is "gathering information and assessing the occurrence."
"The accident has been reported to the TSB as required. … At this point right now, we’re following up with the RCMP and we’re assessing the accident," board spokesperson Alex Fournier told the Sun.
The investigating will likely be a Class Five investigation, he said, which means it is mostly data gathering to support other investigations.
"We have not deployed to the site but we have followed up with the RCMP and we are working with CP as well," he said.
Fournier couldn’t provide more information on how the collision happened when reached on Wednesday afternoon.
Last year, five fatalities were associated with collisions at rail crossings in Manitoba.
» Winnipeg Free Press
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