Lac-Megantic Train Derailment: Engineer Under Investigation

    July 12, 2013
    Amanda Crum
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The Lac-Megantic train derailment that destroyed the town’s center in Quebec last weekend is still under investigation, and now the engineer responsible for setting the brakes on the train has been fired.

More than 50 people are feared dead after the train–which was carrying highly flammable crude oil–rolled downhill, derailed, and crashed into Lac-Megantic’s downtown area last weekend, although investigators say they have only found 20 bodies so far. Just one of those has been positively identified.

Authorities say that the engineer finished his shift the night of the crash and went to rest at a nearby hotel. Later that same night, a fire broke out on the train and a different engineer was brought in with firefighters to get it under control. Some time after that, the train set off on its deadly course down the tracks. Investigators believe that the original engineer didn’t apply all 11 brakes before he ended his shift.

Ed Burkhardt, the president of Rail World, Inc., said that engineer is now being investigated.

“It was our employee that was responsible for setting the brakes on the train … That employee is under investigation and is not working. I don’t think he’ll be back working with us,” Burkhardt told reporters.

Many are upset at the way Burkhardt is handling the tragedy, as he has been quick to assign blame to the engineer but refuses to take responsibility for it on behalf of his company until the investigation has concluded. Quebec premier Pauline Marois released a statement as a comfort to citizens, saying, “The entire province of Quebec is in mourning since this accident. In due course, business and the necessary authorities will have to be held accountable. Never should such an event have occurred. There are too many questions to be asked. Answers will have to be forthcoming.”

Image: Wikimedia Commons/ Twitter

  • Vrnc

    The investigators did not say the engineer didn’t set the 11 brakes he state, the MMA chairman has said that he now believes the engineer didn’t. No one has said it was another engineer who attended with the firefighter, just another MMA employee. I wouldn’t trust anything Ed said since MMA are likely to be investigated and I suspect Ed is trying to point fingers away from him and the MMA.

    • Forward thinker

      The fire dept left two MMA employees in charge of the train. Since the engine was off and the brakes need the engine to maintain brake pressure, why did they not take action to ensure the brakes were working or call the Engineer if they I’d not know. I also think it strange that they would leave a train idling on a grade unattended. If for no other reason than someone could valadize or steal it. Something really strange in this case.