Train conductor loses appeal in rail death case
Published: April 25, 2008
Source: Karen Kleiss, edmontonjournal.com

EDMONTON - A train conductor convicted of breaking safety rules that led to the death of a truck driver has lost her appeal.

Susan Hopkins was convicted in November last year of failing to protect the public at a railway crossing in Fort Saskatchewan on Aug. 18, 2005.

The veteran conductor was in charge of 20 rail cars being pushed along the tracks from behind when they approached a crossing at Highway 15. Truck driver Arnold Mahlitz, 55, sped up to cross the tracks, and was hit by the oncoming train. He died at the scene.

Under the Canadian Rail Operating Rules and the Railway Safety Act, Hopkins was required to have a person standing on the tracks to alert the public to the oncoming train, but she did not.

During the trial and the appeal, she argued that she had executed her due diligence when she effectively ceded responsibility to her brakeman and engineer, both of whom also had decades of experience and knew the rules.

In a judgment released Wednesday, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Eric Macklin refused to accept her argument, and agreed with Provincial Court trial Judge Peter Ayotte, who ruled that she did not take all reasonable steps to ensure compliance with the rules.