8 Killed at crossing
Flyer hits loaded car in Napanee
Pictures on Page 9
Napanee, Jan. 24.—Eight persons, six of them from one household, were killed last night when their car was demolished by a CNR Montréal-Toronto flyer at a crossing long considered a potential killer.
There was one survivor, 10-year-old Joan McQuiag, who is in Kingston General Hospital. Her condition is good.
Killed at the crossing, where installation of automatic warning signals was under construction, were Harry Lewis, 64; his wife Bessie, 48; their son, Joseph, 12; Clifford Thompson, 40; Sandra and Sharon McQuaig, 11- year-old twins, all of R.R. 1, Newburgh, and Borden Cox of Marlbank and Mac Fox, Napanee.
Roaring through the early evening at a speed of at least 60 miles an hour, the flyer, which does not stop at Napanee, smashed squarely into the middle of the loaded auto. Wreckage was scattered for 400 yars and so terrific was the impact, that it was impossible to tell the make of car. The seats and body were torn out of the machine, leaving the frame and wheels in one piece. The engine block was found 60 feet from the main frame.
There were no eyewitnesses to the crash. It is believed the car was driven by Clifford Thompson, who had brought the family and the McQuaig girls to Napanee from their home a mile away to see an afternoon movie.
The level crossing smashup, one of the worst in this district's history, wiped out all but two members of the Thompson family, Mrs. Annie Thompson, 80, and Hugh Thompson, brother and partner of Clifford, and owner of the car.
"They wanted me to go with them," Hugh said, "BUt I didn't feel like going to town. I guess I must have been forewarned, somehow. Mother and I go in town every Saturday. The children always go to the movies Saturday afternoon and we always pick up the little McQuaig girls and take them with us."
Napanee Police Chief Harry Benn said the view at the crossing was blocked to some extent, and he doubted that the driver ever saw the train. The local council made application a year ago to the Board of Transport Commissioners for automatic protection of the level crossing on No. 41 highway [now Centre Street North]. An investigation showed that short arm gates would have to be installed as there are four tracks at this point, making it a switching yard.
Cost of the installation was estimated at $22,000, of which the town's share would be about $4,500. Deciding that this would be an increase of two mils on the tax rate, the council appealed to the county council for assistance. No action was taken on this particular application, though the council recommended
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8 die in crash at rail crossing
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that wig wags be installed at other points in the district.
There have been no fatalities at the crossing for some years, although there have been complaints about the lack of visibility. A feed mill stands close to the tracks, blocking vision to the west as the crossing is approached from the south. Lights in the yard shine all night, making identification of approaching trains difficult.
Only one member of the train crew saw the auto before it was hit. He was Engineer Cecil Burley of Belleville.
"I had my arm up and was just finishing blowing the signal for the crossing for the last time when I saw the car right in front of us, " Burley recounted. "It did not stop at all."
The end of the train was about 800 yards past the crossing when the locomotive came to a halt.
In Kingston General Hospital, Joan McQuaig opened her eyes and murmured to a nurse, "My you people are nice to me." Then she lapsed into unconsciousness again.
Mac Fox, one of the eight victims, was well known in Napanee. He spent most of his winters cutting logs for one dealer or another. Another a year ago he fell asleep in a parking lot and was run over by a truck. He spent six months in hospital.
Clifford Thompson purchased woodlots from farmers and would cut and sell wood on consignment. He and other engaged in woodcutting came into Napanee every Saturday afternoon. Fox and Cox would have worked longer in the bush Saturday, but their saw broken and they decided to knock off work.
The elderly Mrs. Thompson, who ran the household where the six victims lived, was awaiting their arrival for supper in the farm home. The light was on in the yard when a car drew up. She went to the door, expecting her family. Instead a provincial police officer brought her the news of tragedy.