The Canadian Pacific Rail train derailed and crashed near Field, B.C., killing three crew members, sped out of control after the brakes were released without warning, Transportation Safety Board researchers said on Tuesday.
Officials at the federal agency said the three-engine, 112-car train stopped at Partridge Station just before midnight on Monday to change its crew, which was approaching maximum service hours, said James Carmichael, a researcher TSB's senior rail operator.
CP 301, departing from Red Deer through Calgary and Vancouver, was stopped in the small station for about two hours, with the new crew still not ready to leave when the train's emergency brakes were unexpectedly released and began to roll to west. challenging stretch of mountain passes towards the countryside.
"The train was stopped on the railing with the air brakes in emergency for about two hours when the train began to move on its own. There were no handbrakes applied on the train, "Carmichael told reporters in Calgary.
"The train … accelerated at a speed well above the maximum speed of the track (32 km / h), to the tight corners and steep mountain grade, and the train derailed.
Driver Dylan Paradis, locomotive engineer Andrew Dockrell and trainee Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer, all from Calgary, were killed in the crash that occurred at Mile 130.6, about three kilometers after Partridge Station, where he had been detained.
Railway sources told Postmedia on Monday that the train was moving about twice as fast as the speed allowed when it left the runway as it skirted a turn just before entering the tunnel of the lower spiral.
Carmichael said investigators were unable to determine how fast the train was going when it left the runway, as the locomotive event recorder on its lead engine, which suffered significant damage when landed in a creek, has not yet been recovered.
All but 13 of the cars carrying grain and the rear engine of the train left the rails.
Officials remain uncertain about what caused the train to lose control or the brakes to release, which will be a key part of the investigation.
"Investigators and others are working hard in challenging circumstances to fully understand what has gone terribly wrong," said Carmichael.
"It was nothing the staff did. The train began to move on its own. Let's try to determine why the brakes did not stay in place. "
Dave Fulton, chairman of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, will not speculate on what could have caused the brakes to break down, saying it's "TSB's role" to find out "what really happened."
Fulton said that it usually takes "30 to 40 minutes" on average to move a train going 24 km / h from Partridge Station to Field.
Two TSB researchers remain at the crash site and are supported by researchers at the Calgary office, the TSB engineering lab and the agency's human factors division.
Carmichael said investigators will seek to obtain electronic data from the three locomotives, conduct interviews, examine the potential effects of weather conditions, and review rail policies.
"As with all our investigations, we will examine all information before drawing any conclusions. As such, it is too early to say what the causes and factors that contribute to this accident may be, "he said.
Carmichael could not say how long the investigation should last.
The CP did not comment immediately on the preliminary findings of TSB, but in a statement on Monday, President and CEO Keith Creel said the company will not speculate on what went wrong.
"In the coming hours, we remain focused on employee safety and the safety of our first responders, as well as working closely with the families of the deceased and all of our employees. This is a tragedy that will have a lasting impact on our rail family, "he said.
"The incident is under investigation and we will not speculate at this point on a cause – we should involve those involved in doing what is right."
– With files by Ryan Rumbolt
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