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Holiday T’Railway fatality prompts questions

Broken barricades at the entrance to the NL T’railways near the Train Museum in Port aux Basques. A fatal accident over the holidays has left many questioning on social media why there wasn’t more done to prevent the tragedy. – © Rosalyn Roy / Wreckhouse Press Inc.

By Ryan King

Community News Reporter

RED ROCKS – On Wednesday, Dec. 29 an accident occurred on the T’Railway near Red Rocks that resulted in the death of a driver and injuries to a passenger when a side by side crashed over a steep embankment. The RCMP investigated the incident and identified a washout on the trail that factored into the crash.

“At approximately 6:30 p.m., on December 29, 2021, Chanel-Port aux Basques RCMP received a report of an ATV crash on the track between Red Rocks and MacDougalls,” said Jolene Garland, RCMP Media Relations Officer. “Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and police attended the scene. A side by side had crashed over the embankment of a large washout on the trail. The driver of the side by side, who was not wearing a helmet nor wearing a seat belt, died at the scene. A passenger survived with minor injuries. The investigation is continuing with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.”

The RCMP added that the weather in the previous weeks had cause this section of the T’Railway to become dangerous.

“The ground surface of the trail remains soft due to the heavy flooding in the area last month. Police caution those using the trail system to be mindful and cautious as more washouts have occurred since this crash and further washouts are possible.”

The RCMP stated that due the dangers posed by the recent flooding in the area, the Newfoundland T’Railway had originally warned residents of the trail conditions on Nov. 24, 2021. In addition, while seatbelts are required in side by sides, helmets are not currently mandatory, but they are highly recommended.

Digital Government and Service NL stated that the new Off-Road Vehicles Act passed in the House of Assembly on Nov. 16, 2021, will require helmets for all off-road vehicles like side by sides. The new laws should come into force this year.

“The new regulations are currently being developed, and government has committed to consider whether or not the regulations should include an exemption from mandatory helmet use in enclosed side-by-sides only. The new regulations will require seatbelts to be worn in or on any off-road vehicle equipped with them,” said Media Relations Manager Krista Dalton.

Responsibility for safe use of these vehicles belongs to the operator.

“While government can set laws and regulations to protect users, the responsibility always lies with operators to ensure they are following the rules and taking every precaution to ensure their own safety and the safety of those around them.”

Dalton added that ATVs normally come with recommendations for safety equipment outlined in the vehicle documentation.

“It is worth noting that owner’s manuals typically recommend that helmets and seatbelts be worn for all off-road vehicles. While the new rules are not yet in effect, there is no reason to wait to wear a helmet or seatbelt. Such measures ensure the safe operation of off-road vehicles.”

A public advisory was issued by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation (TCAR) on Jan. 6 that advised users to avoid all closed areas of the T’Railway Provincial Park and to report any damages of concerns by e-mailing trailway@gov.nl.ca or calling 709-637-2040.

Adrienne Luther stated that the department had recently become aware of the accident.

“We send our most sincere condolences to the family and friends of the individual who lost their life,” said Luther.

She explained that the T’Railway is a Provincial Park that is open year-round, and it is a multi-use corridor for a variety of different user groups.

“Parks NL does close portions of the T’Railway when damages are identified or when repairs are required. When an area of the T’Railway is closed, Parks NL issues a public advisory, places signage on the trail and closes off the area with tape and/or barricades.”

She added that when these problem areas are identified, signage is also put in place to warn ATV drivers.

“We urge users to be aware of their surroundings when on the T’Railway. Users should look out for tape, signs and barricades and should never remove them or travel past or around them.”

Sections of the T’Railway on the Southwest coast remain closed.

“The T’Railway is closed from South Branch to Port aux Basques, as well as between St. Fintan’s and the Crabbes River trestle. The intense storm that hit the Southwest coast this fall caused washouts in these areas, resulting in the required closures.”

Repairs on these areas will happen later this year.

“Assessments are being made now and the hope is that planning for repairs can commence in the spring.”

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