Engineer blamed for Quebec oil tanker train blast
"I think he did something wrong ...we think he applied some
hand brakes but the question is did he apply enough of them,"
Edward Burkhardt, president and CEO of Rail World Inc., told
reporters on Wednesday. "He said he applied 11 hand brakes, we
think that's not true. Initially we believed him, but now we
Burkhardt added that a train engineer has been suspended
Rail World Inc. is the parent company of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway company, which was operating the train at the time of the accident.
Burkhardt made his comments as he visited the devastated town of Lac-Megantic, where the train rolled down a hill and crashed. All but one of the train’s 73 tanker cars were carrying crude oil.
The Quebec police are now presuming that all those missing in the
tragedy are dead. Earlier Wednesday, provincial police inspector
Michel Forget reduced the total number of dead and missing to 50
"Now we are standing here with a number of 50 persons that we are considering now as missing and most probably dead in this tragedy," Forget told reporters. Twenty bodies have been recovered thus far.
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois faulted the company's response in the wake of the disaster, announcing a $60-million fund to help victims of the catastrophe and rebuild the town.
"We have realized there are serious gaps from the railway company from not having been there and not communicating with the public," Marois said shortly before Burkhardt’s visit.
Canadian police said they have launched an inquiry, adding that there have been no arrests yet. "We are conducting a criminal investigation. We are not neglecting anything so far," Forget said. The police inspector ruled out terrorism as a cause of the tragedy.
Forget added that there may have been other causes for the
derailment, while other officials have raised the possibility
that the train was tampered with before the crash.
The accident forced the evacuation of 2,000 people - nearly a third of the town’s population. Some residents started returning home on Tuesday, although officials say part of the town remains dangerous and is cordoned off as a crime zone. They are not sure when the remainder of the evacuees – around 800 people - will be allowed to return home.
"We just want to go home," a man told Reuters before being ushered away by police. "We have rights in Quebec, no?"
The blast and heavy fire occurred shortly after 1:00am (05:00 GMT) on Saturday, when the train with five locomotives hurtled downhill. The train derailed at Lac-Megantic, a French-speaking town with a population of 6,000 people. At least five cars exploded at the site, according to investigators.
Before the Quebec accident, the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway company had 34 derailments since 2003.