SkyTrain Accidents: Public News or Private Concern?
Last night at roughly 6pm, due to what was deemed by Translink staff a “Serious Medical Emergency at the Burrard Station,” all Skytrain service on one rail was ceased between the Stadium and Waterfront Stations, and train service continued via a shuttle-style line on the remaining rail back and forth between Stadium and Waterfront for the next three hours or so.
Although the traditional news media have been quiet about the incident, the occurrence was caused by a person on the tracks being hit by a train, according to several reports on the Discover Vancouver forums. Police, paramedics, and the coroner spent several hours on the tracks themselves and examining the train which had been involved. No reports were certain whether the incident was accidental, malicious, or a suicide attempt, or knew for sure the medical outcome of the person involved.
Police and TransLink officials tend not to release details of SkyTrain incidents, purportedly to prevent additional copycat incidents, and presumably to some degree out of respect for the victims (for example, in the reports of two shootings earlier this week [cbc].
Any accidents involving a human vs. a light rail train are by nature pretty horrific, and my compassion goes out to anyone directly related to the incident (primarily to the victim and his/her family and acquaintances, but also to any observers, given that this kind of thing can be pretty traumatic).
But my curiosity was also piqued with regard to the role of the media in accidents such as these. The victim and family have a right to anonymity, of course, but to what extent do the people affected in various ways by the occurrence have a right to know what happened? If their commute is delayed by 20 minutes or so, is knowledge whether the nature of the delay was management-related, mechanical, or medical adequate? Do they have the right to know, if medical, if the person survived? Or at which point does this cross over from the need-to-know (for example if it were useful in preventing future incidents or could be perceived as important for people who wanted to avoid a dangerous area) to the morbidly nosy?