Quebec oil train crash blamed on weak brake force


TORONTO -- Canadian investigators looking into the deadly train derailment and explosion that decimated a small Quebec town earlier this month said Friday that they believed there weren't enough brakes applied to the train when it was parked unattended before it ran away.

In its first public statement on the possible cause of the accident, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, the country's main investigator of rail accidents, said that its initial investigation has determined that the amount of braking force applied to the train that was left outside Lac-Megantic was insufficient on the specific grade where the locomotive was parked.

The TSB said it issued an advisory to Canada's transportation department to review its rules on brakes. It also issued a notice that trains carrying dangerous goods are not to be left unattended on a main track, a move that will force many Canadian operators to revise their procedures.

TSB investigators have already searched through at least 22 tankers and have sent samples of the train's crude-oil cargo to its headquarters in Ottawa for further analysis. A question still outstanding is what specifically ignited the train's crude, which is much more stable than other petroleum products like gasoline.

The Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway Inc. train -- five locomotives and 72 tanker cars carrying crude oil -- derailed in the center of Lac-Megantic earlier this month and triggered a series of explosions. Authorities have said that 50 people are either dead or missing and presumed dead.

MM&A, a unit of Rail World Inc., has blamed the accident on the train's engineer, saying he didn't set the right number of hand brakes. The union representing the engineer defended his safety record. He hasn't spoken publicly since the accident.

Dow Jones Newswires

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