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Seeking Compensation

Many of the injured were taken to the Ottawa Civic Hospital by train early Monday morning, including the Turcotte family, Ed Muldoon, and his cousin Eileen McMahon.

Marion Jamieson found herself on the Hospital Train, helping with those who were most seriously injured. Many died on the way to the hospital and tension hung heavy in the air as the exhausted nurses and doctors struggled to provide comfort where they could. While Marion held a man in her arms who was nauseous from the morphine, he suddenly looked up at her and said, “Have I died and gone to heaven?” No one within earshot could keep themselves from laughing.

A Train of a Different Fate

Ed and Eileen, pulled from the wreckage only hours before, were bruised, scratched, and shaken. Ed can still vividly recall two Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.) representatives boarding the hospital train and insisting he and Eileen, and others on board, sign a waiver form exonerating the CPR of liability. Confused and traumatized, they did.

Photograph of a small boy , Bernard Turcotte in a hospital cot, sitting up and smiling for the camera at the Ottawa Civic Hospital after the Almonte Train Wreck, 1943

Bernard Turcotte at the Ottawa Civic Hospital – January, 1943


Young Bernard Turcotte, on the other hand, spent the ride chatting with other passengers and was rewarded with a gift of 25 cents and handfuls of peppermint life savers, while his parents, Maurice and Cecile, hovered on the edge of consciousness.

Due to the extent of their injuries, the Turcottes were forced to call the Civic their home for the next six months. All suffered multiple leg fractures and were heavily drugged following the accident to help with the pain and recovery. Cecile wasn’t told of the death of her daughter, Denyse, until after the funeral had already taken place. Kept in different wards on different floors of the hospital, it was nearly a month before the family saw each other again.

Photograph of Cecile Turcotte sitting up on a bed smiling with a nurse at her side at the Ottawa Civic Hospital after the Almonte Train Wreck, 1943

Cecile Turcotte at the Ottawa Civic Hospital – 1943


Physically, Cecile was doing much better than her husband and son. She spent her time playing cards with her fellow patients and made many close friends there.

Lawyers and Liability

Maurice and Bernard were both told they would never walk again by the CPR’s doctors. In response, Maurice contacted a well-connected lawyer he had met through one of his odd jobs doing repair work. His lawyer was able to work with a law firm from Toronto to pressure the CPR for better healthcare and financial compensation. The case never went to court, and the family instead received a cash settlement, which included money for Bernard’s education. Specialists were brought in for the Turcottes and both Maurice and Bernard walked again, without any problems. Nearly 70 years later, Bernard spoke of the accident as having both positive and negative effects on his family. The death of his sister was horrific, yet the settlement allowed the family to move to a better neighbourhood, out of tenement housing, and to the Glebe in Ottawa, where Bernard received a better education.