More than a year after two young children were killed when a train struck the family minivan in Lakeshore, Ontario Provincial Police have criminally charged their father, who was driving.
Just before 10 a.m. on June 10 of 2012, Andrew Williams drove the van across a set of train tracks on Strong Road with his four children travelling as passengers. A Canadian Pacific Railway freight train was travelling toward the van and the crew was unable to avoid a collision despite sounding the horn and slamming on the emergency brakes, a railway spokesman said at the time.
Wynter Williams, 6, and Brooklyn Williams, 3, died of their injuries. Paramedics transported Dryden Williams, who was 4 at the time, to the Childrens Hospital of Michigan with critical injuries. The youngest child Jasmyn Williams, one-and-a-half at the time, survived with minor injuries.
Andrew Williams was in a medically induced coma in the hospital for three days following the collision. Medical personnel had to transfer him from a transport van to a stretcher, then a wheelchair so he could say his final goodbyes before his childrens funeral.
On Tuesday, OPP officers arrested Andrew and charged him with two counts of criminal negligence causing death, two counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm, two counts of dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death and two counts of dangerous operation of a vehicle causing bodily harm. He appeared in court Wednesday and was released from custody with conditions.
Angie Williams, Andrews wife and the mother of the four children, has also filed a lawsuit against the Town of Lakeshore, CPR and her husband, although the couple remains together. Angies lawyer Greg Monforton said the criminal charges have been difficult for the family and questioned why police are laying them now.
It seems unusual for so much time to have passed, he said. This is a married couple who continues to live together and struggles to raise their two children in the aftermath of a terrible tragedy.
OPP Sgt. Rick Tonial said it took more than a year to lay charges because police conducted a thorough investigation, interviewing witnesses and recreating the crash with a three-dimensional diagram. CPR police conducted their own parallel investigation as well, he said.
Theres a process involved for these kinds of things. Basically, it takes time to collect all the evidence, he said. There is evidence, in our mind, in the crown Lawyers mind, that he was criminally negligent in what he did, which caused the death of these two children and the bodily harm of the other two.
Monforton said he has asked the Chief Coroner of Ontario to open a coroners inquest into the deaths of Brooklyn and Wynter. He said all the parties named in the lawsuit have been served with a statement of claim and hes waiting for them to name counsel before proceeding.
Laura Blondeau, a spokeswoman for the Chief Coroner of Ontario, said the coroner can only open an inquest after all matters before the court related to the incident have been dealt with. The Transportation Safety Board decided not to produce a report after concluding a full investigation into the incident would not benefit public safety.
In May, Monforton said the lawsuit names Andrew Williams because its always prudent in any motor vehicle incident to sue both drivers. The crossing, like many in Lakeshore, has only unlit signs warning of tracks ahead no flashing lights, bells or gates and the lawsuit alleges CPR and the Town of Lakeshore failed to make the crossing safe for the public.
A spokesman for CPR declined to comment on the lawsuit or the findings of the railways own investigation. Lynn Grech, Angies sister, also declined a request for comment from the family. If a family member has been killed in a car accident contact one of the experienced Windsor wrongful death lawyers at Greg Monforton & Partners today for a free consultation.