High water linked to fatal train derailment in Manitoba: Transportation Safety Board

An aerial view of the train derailment near Ponton, Man. is seen on Sept. 15, 2018 in this handout photo. The Canadian Press / Transportation Safety Board of Canada

An investigation into a fatal train derailment in northern Manitoba has found the remote track was susceptible to heavy rain and high water levels.

The train met a washed out bridge on a remote stretch of the track near Ponton, Man., in September 2018. Train conductor Kevin Anderson was trapped in the train and died, while another worker was seriously injured.

The train was carrying cargo including gasoline and liquid propane gas, and while none of that spilled or leaked, thousands of litres of fuel from the locomotives themselves did leak into the Metishto River.

READ MORE: One man dead, another left with life-threatening injuries after train derailment

A Transportation Safety Board report released Thursday found proper track inspections had been done days prior to the crash, but water levels had risen, causing the infrastructure to fail.

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The board’s report says that although rails and ties were in place, they were unsupported.

When the train travelled over the area roughly 545 km northwest of Winnipeg, the track collapsed, trapping the crew in the wreckage.

Photo provided by the TSB shows high-water marks around the rail line where the crash happened. Handout/TSB

Anderson died after being trapped for more than eight hours, while teams worked to get to the remote area. The other crew member who was critically injured was stuck for more than 10 hours.

The derailment was spotted by a helicopter, but the investigation found there were major gaps in Hudson Bay Railway’s emergency response plan.

READ MORE: Derailed train that killed worker now leaking fuel into northern Manitoba river

The report found Hudson Bay Railway — which operated the train – did not have an emergency response plan in place for a derailment in a remote location involving dangerous goods, complicating the rescue.

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The company had also dramatically scaled back its beaver control program two years earlier, according to the report, leaving some areas susceptible to washout.

The company has since updated its emergency response plans, repaired the track, inspected culverts and brought back the beaver-control program, the TSB said.

In February, Manitoba’s chief medical examiner called an inquest into Anderson’s death.

–With files from William Reimer and The Canadian Press

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