A devastating railway crash that killed a Nanaimo couple and left their 14-year-old son in a coma is now the subject of a lawsuit launched by the B.C. government against the City of Nanaimo, seeking compensation for the costs of the teen's medical care.
Andrew Hall, now 17, was in the back seat of his parents' car when it was struck by a train on the Dorman Road crossing on Oct. 14, 2009, killing his 44-yearold mother Roseane Perreault and 49-year-old father Lyle Brian Hall. A statement of claim filed by the provincial government in B.C. Supreme Court on Friday argues the city owed Hall a duty of care and failed to provide sufficient safety equipment at the railroad crossing, effectively causing the terrible accident.
None of the allegations have been proven in court and the city has not yet filed a statement of defence. Members of the Hall family were unavailable for comment.
"The collision and the resulting injuries suffered by Andrew Hall were caused by the negligence of the city," the province argues in its suit.
Perreault was driving and the elder Hall was sitting in the front seat of their Dodge Spirit when they turned off the Island Highway North. She applied brakes when she saw flashing lights, a Transportation Safety Board report would later find, but it landed her right on the tracks. A southbound Via Rail Day liner broadsided their car and hurled it 45 metres.
Andrew was airlifted with extensive head injuries to B.C. Children's Hospital in Vancouver and was induced into coma.
The B.C. government argues that the city failed to install advance warnings signs, a sufficient number of signal lights, street lights or other traffic control devices at the site.
The city failed to block access to Dorman Road from the highway when it ought to have known that letting traffic turn off constituted a "significant hazard," the province said. It also failed to let railway authorities and interested parties know about the hazardous condition on the highway and failed to follow regulatory and legislative standards in relation to traffic safety, according to the claim.
Hall suffered extensive head injuries, including a depressed skull fracture, the fracture of his cervical spine and internal injuries such as liver hematoma, renal laceration and intestinal injury, the lawsuit said.
Because the teen has B.C. health coverage, the province is seeking payment of his medical care costs under the Health Care Costs Recovery Act.
A Transportation Safety Board report issued in 2010 blamed the crash on what was described as a poor and outdated crossing design. Among the stated design flaws were the poor positioning of signal lights and the "insufficient" 14-metre stopping distance from the highway corner to the crossing stop line.
Mayor John Ruttan said the city is aware of the lawsuit and that its defence would be handled by the Municipal Insurance Association.
"These things are difficult. I recall the circumstances," Ruttan said.
"It would be improper for me to make a comment on it at this time. . . Anything I say may prejudice our claim."
Andrew made a remarkable recovery after the crash, coming out of his coma. After months of rehabilitative therapy at the Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children in Vancouver, he was moved to a care facility in Nanaimo in 2010.
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