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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Mixed Signals on Second Migrant Wave at US Border

The number of Central Americans apprehended at the border peaked in June, but reports from migrants indicate more might be on the way
More

Cuba Enacts New Rules to Restrict Imports

New rules increase duties on items such as televisions, limit the number of personal items air travelers can bring to Cuba and increase duties on mailed packages
More

Nicaragua Rescuers Save 20 Miners; Search Continues

Wall of mud, rocks trap miners at El Comal site in Bonanza, 420 kilometers northeast of Managua
More

Shortage-weary Venezuelans Scoff at Fingerprinting Plan

Proposal on food sales sparks backlash ranging from violent street protests to social media campaigns ridiculing the idea
More

Rescuers Contact 20 Miners Trapped in Nicaragua Gold Mine

Two miners have been rescued, others are believed to be alive
More

Brazil Enters Recession in Pre-election Blow to Rousseff

Experts say left-leaning policies have dented consumer and business confidence and caused heavy losses for financial investors
More