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Rail News: Safety

TSB will perform 'top-to-bottom' investigation of Quebec derailment, Tadros says


Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) Chairwoman Wendy Tadros on Friday visited the site of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, and stressed that the agency has launched a full investigation into the deadly accident that occurred on July 6.

She also explained the TSB's investigation process and expressed sympathy to community leaders about the accident, which is presumed to have caused about 50 fatalities.

The TSB's goal is to find out what happened, why it happened and what needs to be done to prevent it from happening again, said Tadros, vowing a "360-degree, top-to-bottom" search for answers. The TSB now has 20 experts on the scene and another 10 working on the investigation from the agency's home office in Gatineau, Quebec, she said during a news briefing in Lac-Mégantic, according to a press release.

"This is an incredibly complex investigation. We're looking not just at the train and its operation, but its weight, the grade and the track, and the regulatory oversight, the number of brakes set, and the company's practices and procedures. We must examine the locomotives and the tank cars," said Tadros. "However, before anything is moved, we need to document it all. We are doing that now through photogrammetry of the site."

With assistance from the National Transportation Safety Board, the TSB also plans to perform 3-D laser scanning to create a model that will help determine how the tank cars failed and exploded.

"We will interview dozens of witnesses and examine every piece of evidence, applying the full strength of our collective expertise," said Tadros.

She stressed that the agency is in the investigation's initial phase and no one should be making any premature conclusions.

"We understand that the community is anxious for answers, but there are many questions we still need to ask. We must not rush to conclusions if we want to make our transportation system safer. We need to gather, validate and analyze a mountain of information," said Tadros. "Our hearts go out to the families and to all those who lost friends and loved ones. We will examine every piece of evidence … to ensure this community, and all Canadians, get the answers they need."

For more post-derailment coverage, follow this link to read independent transportation analyst Tony Hatch's take on the accident's implications in a web exclusive commentary.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/15/2013