The Transportation Safety Board of Canada says an uncontrolled movement of a train led to the fatal train derailment near the British Columbia-Alberta boundary in 2019.
Three Canadian Pacific Railway employees were killed in February when 99 grain cars and two locomotives plummeted off a bridge near Field, B.C.
Conductor Dylan Paradis, engineer Andrew Dockrell and trainee Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer died in the crash.
The report, released Thursday, said the train had left Calgary and was on its way to Field when it encountered “extreme cold temperatures”, below −25 C.
When the train was descending into Field, it was not able to hold its speed at or below the maximum 15-mph limit, the TSB said. When the speed reached 21 mph, the crew applied the brakes as required and at 9:49 p.m., the train came to a stop at Partridge, B.C.
“After the inbound crew brought the train to an emergency stop, they had a job briefing with the trainmaster,” the report states. “It was decided to get the train underway again by releasing the emergency brake application and allowing the train’s air brakes to recharge as the train continued its descent (an operation called release and catch).”
At the time, the inbound crew was nearing the end of its shift so a relief crew was called in to complete the trip to Field, the TSB says.
The relief crew did not reach the train until about 12:10 a.m. on Feb. 4, 2019, about 2.5 hours after the train had been stopped in an emergency. Meanwhile, the temperature had dropped to −28 C, the report states, and the train’s air brake system had been leaking compressed air, reducing the brakes’ capacity to hold the train on the steep grade.
“The relief crew took over care and control of the train and prepared to resume the trip, but waited in the locomotive cab for the track unit carrying the departing inbound crew to be clear of the main track before they began the release and catch,” the TBS says in the report.
But at 12:42 a.m., before the crew was able to start the process, the train began to creep forward, gradually accelerating uncontrolled down the steep hill, according to the TSB.
“The train was able to proceed over back-to-back reverse curves as its speed reached 53 mph, but it was not able to negotiate the sharp 9.8° curve immediately before the Kicking Horse River bridge. Two locomotives and 99 cars derailed, beginning at Mile 130.6,” the report states.
The derailment prompted a criminal investigation by the RCMP that Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet says continues with no timeline for completion.
The families of two of the three men who died filed a lawsuit last April alleging negligence against Canadian Pacific, its CEO, board of directors, CP police and the federal minister of transport.
Following this incident the TSB recommends:
- that the Department of Transport establish enhanced test standards and requirements for the maintenance of brakes on freight cars operating in cold temperatures
- that the Department of Transport require Canadian freight railways to install automatic parking brakes on freight cars, starting with cars used in on steep mountains
- that the Department of Transport require CP Rail to demonstrate that its safety management system can effectively identify hazards
In a statement to the media, Canadian Pacific Rail said the company “continues to mourn the loss of Dylan Paradis, Andrew Dockrell and Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer. This is a tragedy that will never be forgotten and one which has strengthened CP’s unwavering commitment to safety across its entire operation.”
However, the company said the TSB “misrepresented the facts” at the news conference Thursday.
Specifically, CP said the relief crew did not immediately decide to apply handbrakes upon arriving at the locomotive and they had been on board for more than 20 minutes and had performed another job briefing before the train started to move.
“No decision to apply handbrakes was made during this time,” CP said.
The company also said the assessment of the situation and the decision to apply brake retainers was made with collective knowledge and experience, it was not an issue of training or experience.
The train did not have poor braking performance, CP said and its Safety Management System contains all the necessary elements. It says its training program “meets or exceeds applicable regulatory standards.
“CP will be addressing the inaccuracies and misrepresentations made at today’s news conference and in the Report in greater detail directly with the TSB,” the statement conclud
-with files from The Canadian Press