OMNI Anchorages Case Study: Calgary Handibus
Tragedy Averted Thanks to Q’Straint Retractors When Light Rail Train Collides with Paratransit Bus
In a collision with a Calgary, Canada, light rail train that severely damaged the paratransit bus on which he was riding, a mobility passenger whose scooter was secured by Q’Straint retractors suffered only a cut in his left forehead.
“He received three or four sutures and needed a little Band-Aid on his head, but other than that was apparently no worse for wear,” says Randy Patmore, supervisor of employee services and the lead collision investigator and reconstructionist for Calgary HandiBus Association.
“There didn’t appear to be any movement at all in the Q’Straint Slide ’N Click® connectors on the floor, or on any of the washers, nuts or bolts,” adds Fleet Services Manager Ken McCarron.
Patmore says the accident happened when the HandiBus driver — a 20-year industry veteran with a collision-free record — was momentarily distracted by the mobility passenger engaging him in conversation. With a green light ahead, the bus was approaching an at-grade crossing of the Calgary Transit C-Train.
A three-car train was stopped to the right of the crossing, waiting for its own green signal.
“The passenger is chatting away, the driver looks in the rear-view mirror and when he looks back, the light has changed and he has to make a split second decision to either lock the brakes and give the passenger a shaking or go for it. He went for it.”
As the driver entered the intersection on a red light, the C-Train engineer received his green light. The train entered the intersection, striking the bus at the right rear wheel. The bus spun out of control from the impact and hit a steel power pole head on.
The driver was not seriously injured, but McCarron says damage to bus was extensive. The collision “pushed the bumper and the front end components as far back as the grill and into the front of the engine, getting the water pump and the fan. And it also hit the steering the linkage in the middle and caused the wheels to bow in the middle. So the steering linkage was destroyed.”
“Fortunately, the passenger in the scooter was secured properly,” says Patmore. “But the impact flipped him around and he banged his head into the bottom of the ambulatory seat stowed beside him. He got a cut in his left forehead that took three or four sutures. And that’s it — which is pretty awesome because there were a bazillion other ways that could have gone horribly wrong.”
“The drivers might be huge, hulking guys, but when the safety of their customer has been compromised they are often times reduced to tears and that’s what happened in this case. He was asking ‘Can I ride in the ambulance? Can I go with him?’ You know he just was devastated by it.”
Both Patmore and McCarron agree that one thing they have never seen go wrong is performance of Q’Straint retractors.
“We trust the four retractor system and it hasn’t failed us,” says Patmore. “We have two seasons in Calgary: winter and construction. And with everything that could possibly happen in a city this size with over 100 buses, I literally have never seen the retractor fail.”
Training has a lot to do with the performance of Q’Straint retractors at Calgary HandiBus. All five of the paratransit operators funded through Calgary Transit’s Access Calgary have worked together to establish a common three-week training program for all of their drivers.
“I am one of very few in Calgary who had ever been to the Q’Straint training facility in Florida, and I told our funder and the other contractors that they really owed it to themselves to get in on that,” says Patmore. At his urging, Access Calgary sent other transit staff to Q’Straint’s National Training Seminar. “So when we were developing our own training, we just injected the Q’Straint training protocol right into the training mechanism that we all use.”
For Calgary HandiBus, the combination of reliable wheelchair securement and thorough operator training allowed a mobility passenger to survive a devastating accident virtually unharmed. “I was really, really impressed,” Patmore says. “Because it’s one thing to watch the training videos where they use crash test dummies and wheelchairs on sleds, but to see the retractors perform in actual practice, that’s pretty incredible.”
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