CALGARY – Investigators say a Canadian Pacific freight train was parked and began to move on its own before it derailed and killed three crew members on the Alberta-British Columbia boundary.
The Transportation Safety Board says the westbound train had been parked on a grade with its air brakes applied for two hours near Field, B.C., early Monday when it started rolling.
Investigator James Carmichael said the crew had just boarded the train, but weren’t yet ready to depart.
“It was not anything the crew did. The train started to move on its own,” Carmichael said at an update Tuesday.
He said the train consisting of 112 cars and three locomotives was carrying grain to Vancouver and gained speed well in excess of the 32 km/h maximum for the tight turns in the mountain pass.
It barrelled along for just over three kilometres before 99 cars and two locomotives derailed at a curve ahead of a bridge, he said. Only 13 cars and the tail-end locomotive remained on the tracks.
“The lead locomotive came to rest on its side in a creek and a number of derailed cars came to rest on an embankment,” said investigator James Carmichael. “The remaining cars, including the mid-train remote locomotive, piled up behind.”
The three crew members were in the front locomotive which was “severely damaged in the derailment.”
The railway identified the men who died as conductor Dylan Paradis, engineer Andrew Dockrell and trainee Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer.
The accident happened just short of the Spiral Tunnels, which were built 110 years ago to help trains traverse the treacherously steep Kicking Horse Pass.
Greg Edwards with the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, said he got the call in the middle of the night.
“It’s one of the worst calls that you want to take,” he said Monday. “Everybody I’ve spoken with both within the company and within the union is just devastated by this.”
The union said the crew was based out of Calgary. Edwards said the engineer had more than two decades of railroad experience.
CP Rail president and CEO Keith Creel said the tragedy will have a long-lasting impact on CP’s family of railroaders.
Sixteen cars from a CP train derailed on Jan. 3 in the same area. No one was hurt in that derailment.
The union said eight railway workers have died in Canada since November 2017 and investigations into those accidents are ongoing.