Fatal crash puts spotlight on railway crossing safety
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The fiancée of a 42-year-old man killed in a collision with a train in southeastern Manitoba is hoping for additional safety measures to prevent other tragedies at the railway crossing.
Amanda von Oesen, 36, would welcome gate arms and/or flashing lights to give more advance warning to drivers approaching the crossing where her partner, Brent Wery, died Sunday evening.
“Extra precautions like that make a difference,” von Oesen said Wednesday. “Put an arm there or a light there. That would be the best way to honour him.”
The crossing in the Rural Municipality of La Broquerie, about 60 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg, is marked with railway warning and stop signs.
Wery was a father of three who lived in Richer. He worked at Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, and was a councillor in the RM of Ste. Anne and a captain with the Richer Fire Department.
He was on his way to a family member’s home for a birthday celebration when the collision happened at a CN Rail crossing on Road 33 North, at Twin River Road, at about 6 p.m.
Von Oesen said Wery told her and their five-month-old son he loved them when they saw him for the last time.
She said Wery’s son would normally be with him if he was visiting relatives.
“I decided that one time that it was getting late and I wanted the baby to stay home,” she said. “If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the baby wasn’t with him.”
Wery’s eastbound car collided with a northbound train, according to RCMP, who believe slippery road conditions were a factor.
He was thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene, said police.
Investigators will try to determine if Wery was wearing a seatbelt and if he was driving according to road conditions, the RCMP said.
Von Oesen is waiting for more information about what happened.
After receiving some details from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, she said it appears Wery didn’t have time to stop as the car and train approached the crossing, and was trying to avoid a collision.
“It was just an accident. It was just a stupid thing that happened,” von Oesen said, adding he always wore a seatbelt and was the type of person who would ensure his passengers were buckled up.
La Broquerie Reeve Ivan Normandeau said he’s not aware of any complaints about the crossing, and he doesn’t recall any previous collisions at the location.
The final decision on safety measures at railway crossings rests with Transport Canada, he said.
Transport Canada did not comment before deadline.
Normandeau said the RM’s public works team applies sand to roads as required, and only works on weekends if the weather is bad.
There is no indication a recently sanded road would have altered the outcome.
Out of all his roles and responsibilities through work, firefighting and volunteering, Wery was first and foremost a father, said von Oesen.
“They were his world,” she said of his children. “Our world is shattered. He spent his first and last Christmas with his son all at once.”
Wery had two adult daughters with a former partner, and his son, Oesen, was born in July.
“Brent picked (Oesen’s name) because he wanted to make sure I got my name passed down to (our son) as well,” said von Oesen.
After their friendship blossomed into a relationship, von Oesen moved from Burlington, Ont., to live with Wery in Richer in 2020.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic moved things along.
“We realized life is short and we might not have a lot of time, and it turned out we really didn’t,” said van Oesen.
The couple had discussed getting married later this year.
“We felt everything was meant to be for us,” she said, after visiting a funeral home which is handling arrangements for a service.
Wery had worked as a charge medical radiological technologist at HSC for more than 20 years. In October, he was elected to a second term as the Ward 3 councillor in Ste. Anne.
He held the rank of captain after almost two decades with his hometown fire department.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is gathering information about the collision, a spokesman said.
CN Rail declined to comment.
As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.