Our View: Tough to hold back when little known of tragedies

Immediately declaring what caused a tragedy is tempting, but not helpful.

With the latest tragedy in Langley – the death of an elderly couple, 90 and 88 years old, when struck by a train on the Langley Bypass – it’s easy to assign blame quickly.

We should hold off for just a while, though.

Social media has turned public what used to be a phenomenon between friends and family and co-workers – a bit of aimless banter about something in the news.

For an incident such as this one, there are always a dozen explanations offered up immediately. Perhaps the driver suffered a medical incident. Maybe we should re-test drivers over 80 every year. Or over 70. Or all drivers!

Maybe there was a mechanical failure – with the car, with the swing arms. Did the train whistle sound? Should trains sound their whistles at every crossing, even the controlled ones?

The truth is, we know almost nothing about the incident. Those who have some idea are the handful of immediate witnesses, and the investigators who are still combing through the clues.

But we won’t really know for days, possibly weeks. Too many factors.

Yet that doesn’t stop the speculation. And unlike in the past, that speculation can now roam far and wide, thanks to Facebook and Twitter and text messages. It can get back to the grieving family members, who probably don’t need their family’s tragedy to become fodder for speculation by random strangers who proclaim themselves experts online.

So next time, consider whether you know enough to comment.

– M.C.

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