Nearly a year after a tragic train derailment claimed the lives of three Calgarians working for Canadian Pacific Railway (CP), the RCMP has been asked to do an independent criminal investigation into the crash after claims CP police botched their own investigation.
It was just after midnight on a frigid February night when the brakes failed on a train parked at the entrance to the Spiral Tunnels in eastern B.C., causing it to speed out of control through the treacherous tunnel before jumping from the tracks.
Conductor Dylan Paradis, locomotive engineer Andrew Dockrell and conductor trainee Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer were all killed.
In the days that followed, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) said the train had been parked for about two hours at the entrance to the Upper Spiral Tunnel before it “began to move on its own” after a brake failure. In total, 99 of the train’s 112 cars, and two of its three locomotives, left the tracks.
The RCMP said Tuesday it’s reviewing the file “to determine next steps” after a former CP police officer who investigated the crash spoke to CBC’s The Fifth Estate, claiming CP blocked him from speaking with key witnesses, withheld evidence and ordered officers to focus the investigation on the crew.
Global News has not independently been able to verify the reporting by CBC’s The Fifth Estate, however, in a news release provided by CP on Jan. 25, it said: “The RCMP was immediately on-site post-incident and the RCMP always has the legal authority and jurisdiction to investigate as it sees fit. We are open and willing to review the facts surrounding this event with the RCMP, the TSB and other authorized agencies.”
Teamsters Canada, the union that represents railroad employees, called for “an independent RCMP investigation into the deadly rail disaster.”
“Three of our brothers died in that derailment. If CP has nothing to hide, they should welcome an outside investigation for the sake of the families and all those affected by this disaster,” Teamsters Canada president Francois Laporte said.
The Alberta Federation of Labour also called for an independent investigation into the crash on Monday, saying in a news release that “hazards and known issues were ignored that night under pressure from Canadian Pacific Railway management to keep the trains moving — including a nearly identical issue the day before this deadly crash at the same spot.”
“What we need in cases like this is a criminal charge against the managers who were responsible so that there’s a strong message sent to employers across the country that if you kill a worker, you go to jail,” federation president Gil McGowan said Tuesday.
Teamsters also called on the federal government to get rid of corporate police forces.
“It is absurd that a company should be able to criminally investigate itself,” Laporte said. “They’ll never find themselves guilty of anything.”
The RCMP said it didn’t launch its own investigation into the derailment; instead offered support after the initial crash and when asked by CP, the TSB or the B.C. Coroner’s Office, because CP police were the police of jurisdiction. That wasn’t unique, the RCMP said.
The TSB said Tuesday its investigation into the February 2019 derailment is still in the works, and it will be thorough and objective “to identify all of the casual and contributing factors that led to this tragic accident.”
The board’s responsibility is to find out factors that either caused or contributed to an incident, find safety deficiencies and make recommendations to prevent future incidents. The board does not “assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.”
The board added its investigators fully report causes and contributing factors regardless of whether fault or liability could be determined from their findings.
— With files from Global News’ Blake Lough