Warrant reveals concerns about second train near Lac-Megantic
OTTAWA – As safety inspectors sifted through the charred rubble of Lac-Megantic, Que., provincial police urged them to check a train parked unsafely a few kilometres away, according to documents obtained by Global News.
The documents support a search warrant executed earlier this month at the Farnham, Que. offices of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic – the railway at the heart of the investigation into the Lac-Megantic explosion.
In the documents, Transport Canada inspector Marc Grignon recounts how Quebec police called the federal body, concerned about a second train barely five kilometres east of the smouldering MMA locomotive that had exploded two days earlier in Lac-Megantic.
The 72-car train carrying crude oil was sent barreling down a hillside into after breaking free of its brakes in the early hours of July 6. The cars derailed in the middle of the town, leaked its cargo and exploded. Forty-seven people were killed.
The redacted court documents state Transport Canada found the second MMA train parked on a slope without enough hand brakes applied; Only five were engaged, though a minimum of nine is the standard for trains parked on flat land. It had been there since July 5, the documents state.
In the same documents, Transport Canada also alleges MMA broke federal laws regarding rail safety and the transportation of dangerous goods. About 20 per cent of the documents were redacted.
There have been no charges laid against MMA in relation to the Lac-Megantic disaster and the allegations have yet to be proven in court. The railway company’s CEO, reached by Global News on Thursday, said the company wasn’t immediately available to comment, claiming that because of its bankruptcy protection it needs to seek permission from the American trustee and the Canadian monitor.
Investigators have been tight-lipped since the Lac-Megantic derailment, but the warrant confirms they believe the MMA engineer in charge of that train didn’t apply enough hand brakes before leaving the train unmanned overnight.
It’s a finding former railway engineer Dan Christie called “disappointing,” but “not surprising” since the engineer of the Lac-Megantic train likely would have had to apply 20 brakes, which would take three to five minutes per car.
“That’s just too much to ask of that one person arriving at the end of their tour of duty and just looking for a bed to lay his head in,” said the 30-year rail veteran, who has worked at CN Rail, Ontario’s Metrolinx and VIA Rail.
In the warrant, Transport Canada also claims the company was moving dangerous merchandise without the proper regulatory documents to accompany its crude cargo.
Christie said the manifest is normally supposed to be on the train.
“The purpose of that is that in case of a derailment and emergency crews show up they have to know what is on the train, what is in each and every car,” he said.
Other possible contraventions of the regulations, according to Transport Canada’s warrant, concern brake safety, the inspection and security of locomotives, railway operating regulations and track safety.
Two other alleged infractions have been redacted in the documents.
Inspectors say they’re looking at all other potential infractions under the laws governing railway safety and transporting dangerous goods.
Transport Canada said on Thursday it would be inappropriate to jump to any conclusions and will let the proper authorities continue their investigation.
Court documents show investigators collected time sheets from the railway’s control centre, records of phone conversations and radio communications, operating notices, best practice manuals, copies of computer files, emails, forms regarding cargo, train routes and trip documents – including those from the train that derailed in Lac-Megantic.
Investigators were also seeking to obtain records from an employee surveillance system that tracks whether employees follow rules and regulations. It is not clear whether Transport Canada received it.
The railway’s offices were also raided earlier this summer by Quebec provincial police.
Read: Search warrant documents concerning Montreal, Maine & Atlantic
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