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Rail manager guilty in case of train left on B.C. mountainside without handbrakes


REVELSTOKE, B.C. – A manager with Canadian Pacific Railway has been found guilty for his role in illegally parking a train carrying dangerous materials on a mountainside near Revelstoke, B.C.

A B.C. provincial court judge found Tim McClelland, director of dispatching in Calgary, guilty under the Railway Safety Act of contravening an emergency directive from Transport Canada.

“Despite his responsibility for overseeing the operations on that corridor of the network, and despite the confusion and frustration expressed by the crew … he did not make his plan for the movement of the train sufficiently clear before directing that it be left in emergency,” Judge Richard Hewson wrote in his July 16 decision.

“On a balance of probabilities, Mr. McClelland did not exercise all due diligence to prevent the commission of the offences.”

The Transport Canada directive specified the number of handbrakes that must be applied to unattended railway equipment based on the grade of the rail line and the weight of the train.

It came out after the derailment of a freight train at Lac-Megantic, Que., in July 2013 that killed 47 people and destroyed part of the downtown.

In the B.C. case, the court judgement said two crew members left 58 cars unattended on Feb. 15, 2015, on the main track east of Revelstoke – based on their understanding of directions from their managers as a workers’ strike loomed.

Emergency brakes were applied, but the cars were left without handbrakes or any additional measures to physically secure the train.

Nineteen of the cars were carrying fuel oil and another two cars were carrying ammonium nitrate, both of which are classified as dangerous goods. Ammonium nitrate is a potentially explosive chemical that’s also harmful to fish.

In addition, Hewson noted that the train was travelling on a “challenging stretch of track” because it’s almost all downhill in the area.

Canadian Pacific, McClelland and CP superintendent Mark Jackson were each charged with two counts of unlawfully contravening the emergency directive. The company and Jackson were acquitted.

McClelland has not yet been sentenced, but he could face a fine or jail time.

Copyright (c) 2018 The Canadian Press