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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Brazil’s State Oil Company Takes Massive Loss From Corruption

Investigation has resulted, so far, in indictment of 97 people on charges of corruption, forming cartels and money laundering
More

Colorful Macaws Bring Beauty to Chaotic Caracas

Long-tailed birds color Venezuelan capital's sky, giving its 5 million residents a moment of quiet respite from noise and crime
More

Colombia's ELN Rebels: Peace Talks Near, Rule Out Jail

Commander's comments come as pressure mounts for President Santos to conclude peace talks with far larger FARC group and to show progress with ELN
More

Photogallery Chile Volcano Still Puffing; Flights Canceled in Argentina

Calbuco, which erupted Wednesday without warning, continues to spew ash, smoke
More

Former Spy Master Flees Argentina Amid Threats

Antonio Stiuso contends government is trying to sully his reputation following death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman
More

Chile, Argentina Cancel Flights as Volcanic Ash Cloud Spreads

Argentina's meteorology service forecast ash cloud could reach La Pampa; more than 4,000 people have been evacuated from immediate area
More