There was a suicide on the metro today

Low on fruits and veggies, I headed to the Jean-Talon market today to replenish. Since my legs have been mostly vegetables themselves from lack of exercise, I decided to walk the 2 km, enviro-green shopping bin in hand.

I was disappointed to find that my standard fruit store, Sami Fruits, was empty. Not closed, but empty. All I could see inside was a forklift. No worries, though, the market proper had more than enough to satisfy me (though I managed to snatch the last bag of seedless red grapes at $2/lb).

As I walked back to the metro (I’m not walking 2km with 20 lbs of fruit in tow), I noticed police cars and ambulances parked outside, and an unusually long line waiting for the 31 St. Denis. There’s only one reason these things would happen: Someone has died, or gotten seriously injured, in the metro.

The “incident” (as the police described it to curious onlookers) happened about 5:30pm today on the Côte-Vertu-bound platform of the orange line at Jean-Talon. By 6pm the entire station had been evacuated and passengers flooded adjoining streets, looking for cabs, calling friends for lifts and trying to get on buses that were woefully unprepared to take on the traffic of multiple metro trains.

At about 6:15, the station was partially re-opened, allowing people access to the blue line platforms. Service was cut completely between Berri-UQAM and Montmorency. Police officers standing guard in front of orange tape were instructing people on how best to get to their destination, repeating the situation to everyone who walked by: “Only the blue line is open.”

As I stood outside the ticket booth, I could get a narrow glimpse of the platform, where a train had stopped about halfway in the station. The nature of the “incident” became obvious: Someone had either thrown themselves or been pushed in front of the train at the end of the platform (where the front of the train would be travelling at its fastest relative to the platform), the train ran the person over and took about 75 metres to come to a complete stop.

When a fatality occurs in such a way, it’s not a simple matter to deal with (though the police sadly have had a lot of practice). First aiders have to intervene, the train has to be evacuated, the station has to be evacuated, police have to take photos and compile a report, the train itself has to be taken out of service, the driver has to be treated for shock, and the area needs to be cleaned up.

Finally, at 6:35, the orange line platforms were partially reopened (the far sides still being cleaned), and it was announced that the orange line was back in service. That turned out to be a bit premature, as there were still workers on the tracks. The next announcement clarified that service was delayed but not stopped. It wasn’t until 6:50 that the first trains, packed pretty tight, entered and left the station and service began to return to normal.

This kind of story isn’t one you’ll hear often in the media. Journalists don’t talk about them, for fear that reporting on them will encourage other, more extravagant suicide attempts. It’s a sensible policy, and no part of this is particularly newsworthy (beyond “metro shut down for an hour”).

I don’t know whose blood now sits between the rails at Jean-Talon, and I don’t particularly care to know the name of the person who decided to end his or her life in such a selfish way.

But I was delayed for an hour today, half of that standing in the cold. Just what did that accomplish?

Nothing. That’s sad.

22 thoughts on “There was a suicide on the metro today

  1. Denis Canuel

    I also noticed the incident as I was going back home. I took the blue line and hear “Le nettoyeur de la ligne bleu. Contactez immediatement” while getting out. This is an odd message (there is usually no urgency involved) and when I saw a huge crowd sitting down at the ticket booth then I figured out there was a suicide or crime.

    Selfish indeed. But then again, after you die, you don’t really care I guess. It’s also odd as a buddy and I were talking about this a few days ago. We both doubt the “technique”. You probably get hurt pretty badly but I doubt anyone would die instantly from this. Trains don’t go very fast (50KM or so?). Then again who knows. The lack of publicity makes it harder to compile any data.

    1. joe

      his life was undoubtedly intolerable so he commits suicide. He dies a horrible painful death and you dare critize him calling him selfish. You call him weak. I just hope to god something happens that pushes you to the brink then you’ll see first hand what this person went through. Then we’ll see just how tough you are when you kill yourself. Its time you learned empathy!

  2. Kate M.

    I’ve not been a fan of Sami but it’s such a large piece of that end of the market that it’ll be odd if it goes away. Plus, they always carried things like true yams and leaf amaranth that are used in ethnic cuisines and don’t turn up anywhere else in the market, which will be a loss. Did it look like a renovation, or like a final bye-bye?

  3. Fagstein Post author

    The cash counters were gone, the display stands outside were gone, the display stands inside were gone. It was just a big empty space with a forklift inside.

    It could have been either, considering they never really paid that much attention to decor.

  4. Lorie

    There’s an excellent short story that seems appropriate to recommend at this time: the Blue Angel by Liam Durcan (Montreal author and neurologist). It’s in his collection of short stories _A Short Journay By Car_ and is about a cursed metro worker who always seems to be conducting the fatal metro car when Montrealers decide to off themselves in this manner. It’s creepy, and I always think about it when I hear of the metro being stopped for a “intervention des ambulanciers.”

  5. DAVE ID

    Selfish. oh for fuck sakes. I hope y’all never have to deal with depression (or other more serious mental illness) but if and when you do, you’ll change your stupid tune about selfishness.

    Thing is you’re the ones who are being selfish just because you missed a metro ride. That dead person, missed out on life because he or she was ill.

  6. Laure H.

    You were delayed only an hour. Could’ve been much worse. You could have witnessed the accident, or it could’ve been a friend.
    You still spared some time to write an entry about it. Does this mean that the hour you spent freezing outside was not completely lost?

    So you have to think about other people, even when you want to die?
    I think everyone out to die in a disordely way (sorry about my english), so we can stop ignoring death and stop just running around like a chicken with its head cut off, without stopping to even acknowledge a fellow human’s fatal distress.

  7. Fagstein Post author

    I don’t wish to belittle the idea of people taking their own life. Clearly these people needed help and didn’t get it.

    But jumping in front of a metro train is not quick, or painless, or dignified, or quiet. It won’t make people feel guilty for what they’ve done. All it does is create a spectacle.

    And at the end of the day, people forget. Nobody knows your name, or why you died.

    Like I said, it’s sad.

  8. Denis Canuel

    This morning as I took the subway to work I noticed the “spill”. It is right next to the end of the tunnel so this probably confirms a suicide.

    Two things come to my mind:

    1. What would it take to add a sign or a phone there to help people in need? Not much I guess. Would it work? Who knows but if just one person changes his/her mind than it’s worth it (We could go on and on about how much a person’s life is worth – priceless me thinks).

    2. The tragedy doesn’t stop there, it just started. We have to think especially about the subway driver. He/she will be haunted forever and will wake up in the middle of the night, reliving the exact moment many times. I doubt that person will want to drive trains again. He will be forced to do another job. Maybe he’s not qualified for another job. Maybe he’s very old and can’t really learn anything new. That person might face a depression, become an alcoholic, divorce and so on. His family will be affected too. In cases of divorces, sometimes kids rebel themselves, join gangs and so on. There might be a lot of repercussions.

    Maybe I’m going too far but the point is that, yes, it’s a tragedy for the person who died, but who’s paying now?

  9. Fagstein Post author

    And they encourage people to use them if they believe someone is contemplating suicide or otherwise acting suspiciously (say, by not taking the first train that stops in front of them).

  10. Josh

    Really – if someone doesn’t take the first train they see, we should notify the STM? Thing is, I’ve *been* that person before in scenarios like this:

    I live on the orange line at Snowdon, and let’s say I’m going downtown with a friend who lives at Plamondon. I might tell them to be in the front car of a Montmorency-bound train. Then, I just sit at the end of the platform at Snowdon, and watch trains pass until I see the one my friend is on.

    Whenever I’ve seen people letting trains pass them by, I’ve always assumed they were doing something like that, too.

  11. Denis Canuel

    I assume, and perhaps many do, that this phone is for “after the facts” emergencies. Many bridges around the world have phones where the action is, that is right in the middle of the bridge. The phones should not be in the middle of the platform. People can’t see near the tunnels anyways – especially when it gets slightly crowded. Also, I believe that phones should connect to some suicide hotline, not the STM helpdesk.

  12. DAVE ID

    I often skip a train or two. To get a seat, because I take a long ride on the subway and with my bad knee I want a seat. I’m not insane, just practical.

  13. Nan

    Why doesn’t the train just slow down more when approaching stations? I mean really slow down. Of course this will probably increase the riding time by, say, 30-60 seconds per station, which means each trip will take almost 30-60 minutes longer for the average commuter. I doubt anyone is willing to make that compromise.

  14. Fagstein Post author

    People will always find ways to kill themselves. And the speed a train would have to go to make it impossible for someone to do so would grind service to a crawl.

    The other thing is that the trains don’t actually slow down when approaching stations. They coast using their own momentum, which gradually falls off as they approach the end of the platform.

  15. Patricia

    Sami fruits in St. Michel is now closed as well. Rumors have it that a female customer was picking up a watermelon and was bitten by a snake or spider and died and as a result, the store is now closed. I can’t seem to find any information on the net to validate the story and a google search brought me to their page. Fagstein, do you know any details on the story?

  16. Narsha

    You’re ignorant and obviously don’t know what you’re talking about. You were the selfish one. All you were thinking about was yourself. You could have at least shown some empathy for the victim and his family. Have you ever had depression or had mental disorders? You can never possibly understand his pain. I have a suicidal friend and I, myself, have contemplated suicide many times. I can relate to him more than you do.

  17. Gillian

    HOW DARE YOU. Humanity has failed you, you miserably shameful excuse of a person. You are weak. How dare you take such a terrible situation in which an innocent life was lost and convolute it to make it all about you. It’s sad? Sadness does not even begin to cover the horror of such an act. You’re miserable and you don’t even know it. Clearly you need help. Get a clue or get lost because you don’t deserve what you have: life.

    Your lack of empathy is astounding. You don’t care about the person who killed themselves? The person who was tormented by life to the point where they preferred death? The fact that you don’t care at all about them is incredibly selfish.

    I don’t know the deceased at all, and I waited for an hour as well. However, the only thing I thought about is if there was anything I could do to help. Anything. If I could hold their family in their grief, if I could donate for the funeral, anything. The LAST thing anyone should be thinking about is how the death was INCONVENIENT.

    I’m done. I can’t hold on to this infuriation any more. It isn’t healthy. I’m no longer angry with you. I pity you. I worry for you. I hope that you can learn to love. Without love, you’re just as dead.

    Wake up, find the beauty in the world and the love within you.


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