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

    Russia's Expat Community Shrinking

    Russia's troubled economy, tensions with West have led hundreds of thousands of foreigners to leave for better opportunities

    Accelerating the Push Against Islamic State: What Will Work?

    Experts stress need to step up military action, address root causes of Muslims' disaffection, counter IS social media messages in a massive way

    Experts: N. Korean Abductions Sought to Halt Brain Drain

    Pyongyang abducted about 3,800 South Koreans and more than a dozen Japanese nationals in late 1970s

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees with Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees with Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.

    More Americas News

    Zika Virus Dubbed Inconsequential Except for Link to Microcephaly

    Virus fairly harmless overall, health expert says, but possible link to thousands of babies born with underdeveloped brains causing alarm worldwide

    Obama Ramps Up Aid to Colombia as Peace Deal With Rebels Nears

    Leaders mark anniversary of joint initiative begun to help end armed conflict, drug trade; Obama calls Colombia a country 'on the brink of peace'

    Peru Board Weighs Another Presidential Election Disqualification

    Julio Guzman didn't fulfill requirements when registering his party, National Jury of Elections says; Cesar Acuna may also be barred because of plagiarism probe

    Colleagues' Defection Outrages Argentine Opposition Party

    Move by 12 Front for Victory members alters balance of power in Congress, exposes power struggle within country's broad Peronist movement

    Brazil Police Include Lula in Investigation of Auto Sector Bills

    Police are probing the possible use of bribes to influence legislation that benefits the auto industry

    Colombia's Santos Wants More US Aid as Peace Nears With Guerrillas

    President says his government hopes to sign peace accord with FARC by March 23, says Bogota also needs more US financial assistance to rebuild infrastructure