Health, mechanical issues probed after train kills B.C. seniors

Victims Christian Wantke, 90, and Irmgard Wantke, 88, were married for more than 70 years

  • Jan. 2, 2019 1:10 p.m.

The family of Christian Wantke and Irmgard Wantke has been told investigators are looking at different possible causes of the fatal collision that took their lives, ranging from a medical issue, to mechanical failure of their car and trouble with the crossing signals.

“They had health issues, like everyone does when you get to that age,” said Hans Wantke, the oldest son of the Langley couple who were killed when their car was hit by a train at a level crossing on Sunday.

He said the family would like to know what happened as soon as possible, but they understand the investigation will take as much time as it needs.

Christian Wantke, 90, and Irmgard Wantke, 88, were great-grandparents who were married for more than 70 years.

Hans Wantke says his father was a survivor of the Second World War, a hard-working man who liked to work with his hands.

His parents emigrated to Canada from Germany after some friends encouraged them to go, Hans recalled.

“They told him there was gold at the end of the rainbow,” said Hans.

“The rainbow never materialized, but he [dad] stayed. He always said he would never go back.”

He said his father served a brief stint in the German military as the war was coming to an end, and the country was being devastated by allied air and ground forces.

“He was only 17 when he was drafted, at the very end of the war,” Wantke said.

“I don’t believe he saw combat.”

In Canada, his father quickly learned English and worked in construction, starting as a labourer, then becoming a plasterer’s helper and eventually a truck driver who worked on large projects like the Bentall buildings in Vancouver.

“He never had ambitions to go further,” his son said.

His mother didn’t work, concentrating on looking after the home and raising her four sons.

That was something his father insisted on, Hans said.

“You know Europeans, they’re very old-fashioned when it comes to who the bread-winner is. “

He said he didn’t have words to describe his reaction to the death of his parents, that he always hoped they would live a long life.

“I had a great-grandfather who lived into the hundreds, and I hoped he [my father] would make it there.”

READ MORE: Crash claims lives of couple

Police said the crash occurred at the rail crossing on the Langley Bypass, near Glover Road, at 9:40 a.m.

A westbound freight train hit the car, which was stopped on the tracks.

WATCH REPORT FROM THE SCENE

Langley City deputy fire chief Brian Godlonton said firefighters extricated the pair from the car and performed CPR, but the couple’s injuries were too severe and they were pronounced dead at the scene.

One witness, who refused to be identified, told Black Press she saw the couple stopped on the track and was screaming to them to move when she witnessed them being struck by the train. She was interviewed by police at the scene.

Two stuffed dogs and a War Amps sticker were all that remained amid shattered glass at the impact site.

The family is planning a celebration of life for Christian and Irmgard Wantke.

A time and place have yet to be selected.

Just Posted

SLIDESHOW: The Fraser Valley Auto Mall food drive and convoy

Convoy heads down South Fraser Way, delivers food and money to the Archway Food Bank of Abbotsford

Sweeney Singers host annual Christmas concert in Abbotsford

Event takes place Saturday, Dec. 21 at St. James Church

Four vehicle accident causing southbound gridlock on Highway 11

Accident occurred around 12:30 p.m. at intersection with Valley Road, ambulance on scene

VIDEO: Canada’s only mobile shower trailer for homeless run by Abbotsford Mennonites

Refresh Mobile Showers started operations on May 1, provided over 550 showers

Got that festive feeling? Here are some things to do in Abbotsford

Plenty of holiday fun still left leading up to Christmas

VIDEO: Success of wildlife corridors in Banff National Park has advocates wanting more

Demand for more highway protection escalated after seven elk were killed by a semi-trailer near Canmore

Fans sing Canadian anthem after sound system breaks at BMW IBSF World Cup

The Canadians in attendance made sure their team and flag were honoured on the podium

VIDEO: Fire destroys Big White Ski Resort chalet

Social media eulogies peg the property, nicknamed “The Pharamacy,” as both loved and hated

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Surrey councillor wants the policing transition process to ‘immediately stop’

Brenda Locke to make motion at Dec. 16 meeting to reconsider current plan

Man pleads guilty to second-degree murder in 2017 Stanley Park stabbing

Lubomir Kunik was found by a man out walking his dog on the beach late on Feb. 1, 2017

Vancouver homeless camp brings community, safety, home, says resident

Encampment in the city’s Downtown Eastside is one of many that have sprung up in B.C.

Nanaimo mechanical engineer creates thief tracking program

Nanaimo Thief Tracking lets users plot and share information about thefts online

Most Read