TSB says brake failure, cold weather led to deadly B.C. train derailment
Health & Safety
An investigation into a fatal train derailment near the British Columbia-Alberta boundary has found the locomotive’s brakes failed with prolonged exposure to cold temperatures.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada on Thursday released its findings into the February 2019 derailment that killed three Canadian Pacific Railway employees.
The train was parked on a grade near Field, B.C., when it started rolling on its own and gained speeds far above the limit for the mountain pass.
It derailed at a curve in the tracks and 99 grain cars and two locomotives plummeted off a bridge.
The safety board said its findings show an inbound train engineer had warned the trainmaster of brake system irregularities, but they were not seen as problematic.
It said the trainmaster’s training and experience did not adequately prepare him to evaluate the circumstances or to make decisions.
It also found brake cylinders on the freight cars were leaking compressed air and, worsened by their age and condition and extreme cold, reached a critical threshold before the brakes gave out.
Cold weather safety recommendations
The board said it has made multiple recommendations to Transport Canada to enhance the safety of train operations in cold weather, including a requirement to install automatic parking brakes on freight cars.
“The leakage of compressed air from the train’s air-brake system degraded the performance of the brakes in the extreme cold temperature,” reads the report.
“As a result, even though the inbound locomotive engineer had increased the amount of braking several times while going down Field Hill towards Partridge, the train’s speed continued to increase. When the speed reached 21 (miles per hour), the train crew applied the brakes in emergency.”
Criminal investigation ongoing
The derailment prompted a criminal investigation by the RCMP that Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet has said continues with no timeline for completion.
Conductor Dylan Paradis, engineer Andrew Dockrell and trainee Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer died in the derailment.
The families of two of the men filed a lawsuit last April alleging negligence against Canadian Pacific, its CEO, board of directors, CP police and the federal minister of transport.