News / Americas

    Rail Line Chief: Engineer Failed to Properly Set Brakes on Runaway Train

    Burned cars are seen near the site of the oil tanker explosions in Lac Megantic, Quebec, July 9, 2013.
    Burned cars are seen near the site of the oil tanker explosions in Lac Megantic, Quebec, July 9, 2013.
    VOA News
    The chief executive of the rail line whose runaway train derailed last week in a small Canadian town, causing deadly oil tanker explosions, says the engineer failed to properly set the brakes when he parked it as his work shift ended.
     
    Edward Burkhardt of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway company visited Lac Megantic Wednesday and told reporters that the unnamed engineer has been suspended without pay.  Burkhardt said the employee told company officials that he had applied 11 hand brakes on the tanker cars.  The company chief said, however, that he no longer believes the engineer.
     
    George Bibel, the author of the book, "Train Wreck: The Forensics of Rail Disasters," told VOA that setting the hand brakes is both time-consuming and essential.
     
    "When they stop the train, they have to apply the air brakes.  The air brakes will bleed off over a period of hours or longer and to mitigate that problem you also are supposed to apply hand brakes in numerous cars, which is a bit of an effort.  They have to turn a wheel on every individual car.  That’s pretty much the same as you had in the 19th century," he said.
     
    Several oil tankers exploded in towering flames early Saturday after the speeding train derailed on a curve in the town, killing at least 15 people.  Officials now say another 45 are reported missing, 10 more than previously thought.
     
    Canadian police say they are looking at criminal negligence as a probable cause of the explosions.  Burkhardt, seeing the disaster site for the first time, said it was "absolutely terrible" and looked "like a war zone."
     
    An inspector said late Tuesday police are investigating how the parked train suddenly started rolling toward Lac Megantic. 
     
    Investigators say an earlier fire on one of the train's locomotives is the "focal point" of the investigation.  The fire, quickly doused by firefighters, occurred after the engineer parked the train late Friday outside Lac Megantic.  
     
    Burkhardt earlier said the firefighters had shut down the first locomotive's engines, releasing its brakes, leading to the disaster.  But on his visit to Lac Megantic, he blamed the engineer.
     
    Canadian transportation safety official Donald Ross said the train, on a downhill run, was traveling at excessive speed by the time it reached the town.
     
    "The train rolled down the approximately 1.2 percent grade.  There's varying descending grades on the route, but it's all descending from the location where the train was left to Lac-Megantic.  The train derails at approximately 0114 and although we can't provide the precise speed at the time, the train was traveling well in excess of its authorized speed at that point.  The locomotive detached from the rest of the train and carried through the town and out the other side approximately 6/10 of a mile," he said. 
     
    Authorities have started to allow residents near the site of the explosions to return to their homes.

    You May Like

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    More Americas News

    TransCanada Sues US Over Keystone Pipeline Cancellation

    Oil company is seeking $15B to recover costs and other losses related to project that was to carry oil from western Canada to Gulf of Mexico refineries

    Panama Set for Official Opening of Canal Expansion

    Nine-year, $5.4B project will permit transit by new generation of cargo ships that will double capacity, affect global trade routes

    World Anti-Doping Agency Suspends Rio Olympics Testing Lab

    WADA says lab has committed 'procedural errors' and is in 'nonconformity with the International Standards for Laboratories'

    Displacement in Colombia to Persist Despite Cease-fire, UN Says

    Organized crime involved in drugs, illegal mining, extortion will keep displacing Colombians, a UNHCR official says

    OAS Chief Blames Maduro Government for Venezuela Crisis

    Meeting by Organization of American States on Thursday leads to majority voting to invoke organization's democratic charter on Venezuela, which could lead to country's suspension

    Argentina at UN Renews Call for Falklands Talks; Britain Rebuffs

    There will be no dialogue without permission of the Falklanders, says spokesman for Britain's UN mission