RAC aiding in Lac Megantic trail derailment

by Canadian Shipper

LAC MEGANTIC, Que. — The Railway Association of Canada is collaborating with the Ministry of Transportation and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada in the investigation of the Lac-Megantic, Quebec train derailment.

“Our efforts at this time are focused on supporting all activities in place to help the affected population and the identification of the causes of the accident at Lac-Megantic,” the RAC said in release. The RAC and its and its members also dispatched dangerous goods specialist teams to assist the efforts of emergency and first responder crews at the derailment site.

The early Saturday morning derailment of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) railway, with 72 carloads of crude oil, caused explosions and a fire which wiped out a large part of the small town and killed at least 15 people. The death toll could rise further since there are about 50 people reported missing. The blast destroyed about 30 buildings, including a public library and a popular bar. About a third of the town’s 6,000 residents were forced from their homes.

The east-bound train was transporting crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale, the second largest oil producer in the US, and was destined for an Irving oil refinery in St. John, NB.

A representative of the MMA explained to the media that an engineer had parked the train Friday night at the Nantes station near Lac Megantic, set the brakes and left for a local hotel to sleep. Another engineer was supposed to take over but the train broke loose and hurtled downhill and into the town.

“While the governmental investigation of the accident’s cause has largely prevented MMA from completing its own investigation, one fact that has emerged is the locomotive of the oil train parked at Nantes station was shut down subsequent to the departure of the engineer who had handled the train from Farnham, which may have resulted in the release of airbrakes on the locomotive that was holding the train in place,” the MMA stated.

In a briefing this morning the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s Ed Balkaloul said the MMA train was a parked on the main track and not a siding . About 50 minutes after there was a fire on the train and an employee arrived to help the local fire department. The employee was not same as the one who had driven the train to Nantes. The engine was cut off around midnight to deal with the fire. MMA has charged that the train’s brakes released because firefighters turned off the engine when extinguishing the fire.

The TSB says the train began rolling downhill on a steep grade around 12:56 a.m. It rolled for about 20 minutes, covering almost 10 km. before jumping the tracks at Lac-Megantic’s downtown.

The TSB is looking at operational procedures.

The MMA meanwhile said it has a dozen representatives on hand, with more arriving, to deal with the situation.  Company president and CEO Robert Grindrod is also on hand.  MMA has been in operation since 2003 and owns more than 500 route miles of track, serving customers in Maine, Vermont, Quebec and New Brunswick. It operates about 15 trains daily.

Canadian transport minister Denis Lebel said the train was inspected the day before the accident in Montreal and no deficiencies were found.

The RAC’s president and CEO Michael Bourque described the derailment as an “extremely atypical event”, adding that more than 99.997% of all railway cars reach their destination without incident.

The RAC also provides training to member and shipper staff on the safe practices for loading and unloading dangerous goods.

Have your say

We won't publish or share your data