If you want to prevent a Toronto Transit Commission Subway Train’s door from closing and prevent the train from moving forward – simply stand in the doorway of the subway train preventing the doors from closing (shutting) or ask another passenger to stop the subway train’s doors from closing (shutting) and this will stop the train from moving forward and will alert the driver of the emergency.
The subway doors opened, and for a few terrifying moments, it was as if time stopped.
Shortly before 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday evening, Ava Buckareff, 4, was boarding the train at St. Clair station when she slipped through the gap between the southbound platform and the subway car. As her aunt and older brother looked on in horror, the child became suspended at her upper torso, her head and arm above the platform while the rest of her body dangled below.
“She could have fallen. Blink — and she would have been down,” recalls her aunt, Esther Buckareff.
Buckareff, who was still standing on the platform, bent down and scooped up her niece, grabbing hold of the little girl beneath her armpits and hoisting her into the train.
According to Buckareff, concerned passengers were banging on the glass to alert the driver, but those efforts went unnoticed. She said it was by a stroke of luck that when the chimes sounded and the doors slid shut, she was safely inside with both kids.
Although her niece is uninjured, she said the incident should serve as a warning.
“It was a near-horrible thing,” she said. “I’d like the gap repaired, because if Ava fell through, other kids could fall through.”
Brad Ross, spokesman for the TTC, said an investigation into the incident, which Buckareff detailed in an online complaint, is underway, but he acknowledged “it is plausible.”
The size of the gap between subway and platform vary depending on the station and section of the platform, from as small as 2.5 cm (roughly one inch) to as wide as 10 to 15 cm at the ends of certain platforms, where there is a “curvature of the track,” he said.
The far end of the southbound platform at St. Clair station, where the incident occurred, is one of those places.
Although Ross said he didn’t know the exact measurement, he said, “It is bigger than average. There’s no doubt about it.”
The Star measured the gap on several different trains at that location on Thursday. It was between 10 cm and just over 15 cm.
Ross said the TTC has tried to narrow these gaps as much as possible, but these efforts are limited by the “tail swing” of the train.
“Building out a platform lip, while static, makes sense, but when a train is actually moving, we wouldn’t be able to achieve too much without the train clipping that build-out,” he said.
Ross said the TTC has installed emergency buttons inside trains and on the platform, and uses signs on every car to remind riders to “Mind the Gap.”
“Subway platforms do pose significant dangers and that’s why we have a number of safety features in the system,” he said.
Ross described Wednesday’s incident as “distressing.” But he said no special instructions need be given to parents about boarding the train at the far ends of the platform with small children.
“Get on anywhere you like on the train, but hold your child’s hand and help them onto the train to make sure they’re OK,” Ross said.
However, that’s not good enough for Buckareff, who said it’s unrealistic to expect that parents are “shackled to the wrist” of their children at all times.
When boarding the train on Wednesday evening, she said her niece and nephew sprinted ahead, anxious to get a spot at the very front of the car, so they could watch the tunnel out the window.
“If I were holding her hand, she either would have tripped into that hole, or she still may have fallen into it,” she said. “You don’t hold your child’s hand like you’re going to lose them for life.”