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Planes and trains killed 9 last year

Grim stat above-average for Manitoba

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It's a grim reality that several people will likely die this year in Manitoba in air and railway accidents.

Nine people died in Manitoba in air-and rail-related accidents in 2012 -- five more than in 2011 and three more than the province's five-year average, said a report recently released by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB).

Those deaths account for close to six per cent of the 157 total transportation fatalities in Canada in 2012, which also includes 12 marine fatalities.

The report covers deaths, accidental or otherwise, in railway, pipeline, marine and aviation transportation in Canada.

Manitoba accounted for about six per cent of air accidents and deaths, with four out of 63 air-incident deaths happening in the province in 2012.

Railway deaths in Manitoba made up six per cent of all railway deaths in Canada. The railway deaths in Manitoba were crossing or trespasser accidents, with none involving railway personnel. The same percentage of pipeline incidents, but no deaths, occurred in the province.

The report found almost half of commercial air accidents in Canada last year involved air taxi operations. Air taxi operations are defined as flights in single-engine planes or those carrying up to nine passengers.

A flight such as the Waskada crash on Feb. 10 that killed one adult and three children would not count, as it was a privately owned aircraft, said Chris Krepski, communications adviser at the TSB.

The large number of air taxi accidents is mostly due to the nature of smaller planes and the flights they take, said Prof. Barry Prentice, a supply-chain management professor in the I.H. Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba.

Prentice said the flights often have less-experienced pilots, which can lead to more pilot errors.

Where these planes go also poses more risk.

"If you're flying out to a northern airport, your conditions are by no means going to be as reliable as flying into (Richardson) International," he said.

What this means for Canadians is dependent on activity data, said Leo Donati, director of operational services at the TSB. The data details, for example, how many flight hours were logged and is usually released around the end of March, he said.

"There could have been 10 accidents one year and 100 landings, and the next year 20 accidents and 200 landings. Essentially, the ratio is the same," Donati said. "What we're doing is providing the numbers. It's purely, at this point, a snapshot."

Prentice said the numbers are usually not a reason to worry unless there are big anomalies.

"It really comes down to the experts within that field to decide whether or not we have an anomaly that deserves closer inspection, or are we just within the bounds of what can be expected, not necessarily happily, maybe sadly," he said.

A certain number of transportation accidents is to be expected, Prentice said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 27, 2013 B2

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