Family remembers woman, 78, who died in train collision as ‘larger-than-life’ character

Family of the 78-year-old woman who was struck and killed by a train in La Broquerie, Man., on Sunday afternoon say she was community-minded and loved to volunteer. 

Daniel St Vincent said what happened to his mother Ida St Vincent was a tragedy. 

The pedestrian-train collision happened at a rail crossing on Main Street just before 12:40 p.m., police said in a news release on Monday morning. 

The Francophone community, about 60 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, was holding a parade with roughly 50 floats as part of its St-Jean-Baptiste Day festivities when the collision happened. 

The Quebec national holiday honours the patron saint of French Canadians. 

A woman wearing brown glasses and long earring smiles.
Ida St Vincent, 78, is remembered by family for being a ‘larger-than-life’ character who spent a lot of time volunteering in the community family said. (Submitted by Daniel St Vincent)

Daniel told Radio-Canada that his mother was a “larger-than-life” character who had a big presence for such a small woman. 

Ida ran a daycare out of her home in St. Boniface for many years before retiring, he said.

Volunteer work was an “enormous” part of who she was, Daniel said, adding that she was involved with Union nationale métisse Saint-Joseph du Manitoba and the French-Canadian pavilion at Folklorama. 

Recently, both of his parents were honoured for their years of volunteering at Festival du Voyageur, he said. 

Proud of Métis heritage

His mother was incredibly proud of her Métis heritage and she passed that pride down to him and his two sisters. She also loved playing the violin, Daniel said. 

His mother was a descendent of André Beauchemin, he said, a Métis politician who served in the provisional government of 1870 and was elected to the provincial legislature that year, according to the Manitoba Historical Society.

Ivan Normandeau, the reeve in La Broquerie, said the parade was wrapping up when the woman, who was walking across the tracks, was hit. 

“Unfortunately this was a tragic event and was witnessed by many individuals including many kids, so it’s been tough on those kids for sure yesterday,” he said, adding that up to 4,000 people attended the parade.

All of the schools had increased support from guidance counsellors in case students needed to discuss what happened on Monday, he said. 

A man in a suit sits at a desk. To his right, there is a name tag that reads "Ivan Normandeau."
Ivan Normandeau, the reeve for the RM of La Broquerie, said he was less than a block away from the collision when it happened. (Simon Deschamps / Radio-Canada)

Normandeau said he was less than a block away at the time of the incident. He saw the train go by and heard the train’s bells ringing. 

Trains that go through the community can sometimes reach a speed up 60 miles per hour, which is “pretty fast so when it stops, usually it’s never a good thing,” Normandeau said. 

He said it was also traumatic for the volunteer firefighters who spent the whole afternoon at the scene of the collision, an area that was closed to traffic for a few hours. 

“It was a rough day for everyone involved.”

Normandeau doesn’t recall a pedestrian having been killed on the train tracks in the past. 

Claude Moquin, president of la Fête de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste, said the Roman Catholic Church in the community is hosting a mass at 7 p.m. on Monday to honour Ida.

“Let’s invite as many people as we can, parishioners, non-parishioners, visitors and let’s come and pray for Ida tonight,” he said.

Steinbach RCMP and the CN Police Service are investigating the incident.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada told Radio-Canada they are aware of the incident and are working with their partners to gather more information.