Quebec Train Crash Criminal Probe: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Quebec Train Crash, Quebec Train Crash Criminal Probe

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As the death toll rose to 15 after a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train exploded in Quebec on Saturday, investigators have launched a criminal investigation into the fiery wreck that left the small town of Lac-Megantic in ruins, reports BBC News. Here’s what you need to know.

1. The Train Exploded on Saturday

Quebec Train Derailment, Quebec Train Crash Criminal Probe

About 30 buildings were destroyed in the blast. including the Musi-Cafe, a popular bar that was filled at the time.

The trained was parked in Nantes on Friday night with one of its engines left running to ensure the air brakes had enough pressure. The train caught fire and the engine was shut down and firefighters were called to the scene to put the blaze out. About an hour later, the train broke loose and sped downhill for nearly seven miles before it derailed at 63 miles per hour in Lac-Megantic, near the Maine border. All but one of its 73 train cars were carrying oil and at least five exploded.

“It was moving at a hellish speed,” said Transportation Safety Board manager Ed Belkaloul. “No lights, no signals, nothing at all. There was no warning. It was a black blob that came out of nowhere.”

About 30 buildings were destroyed in the blast and a third of the town’s 6,000 residents were evacuated from their homes.

2. The Death Toll is at 15

The discovery of two more bodies on Tuesday set the death toll at 15 with about three dozen people still missing. The bodies that have been discovered in the wreckage were so badly burned that they have yet to be identified. Authorities have asked relatives of the missing to bring in items such as toothbrushes, hairbrushes, razors to provide DNA samples.

3. Investigators “Discovered Elements” that Led to a Criminal Probe

Edward Burkhardt, president and CEO of the railway’s parent company, Rail World Inc., suggested that when the train’s engine was shut off to put out the fire, it may have disabled the brakes, but investigators have “discovered elements” that led to a criminal probe. Focus is on whether the brakes were released as it was parked.

They are also focusing on the railway’s regulations and whether Canada needs tougher train-transport standards. One of the elements of the probe is the strength of the DOT-111 cylindrical tanker cars that carried the oil. The TSB and the National Transportation Safety Board have in the past urged for tougher rules for such cars.

“If we think there needs to be a safety message out to the industry that they need to beef things up, we’re going to do it,” said lead investigator Donald Ross.

4. The Exposion is Unlikely to have been Caused by Terrorism

Further details have yet to be released on the probe, but Quebec police Inspector Michel Forget said that terrorism has been ruled out.

5. The Head of the Train Company Said He Bears Some Responsibility

Edward Burkhardt, head of the train company, acknowledged Tuesday that his company bears some responsibility for what happened in Lac-Megantic.

“We recognize our responsibility for all of this,” said Burkhardt in an interview with Radio-Canada. “We’re trying to cope with this, but overall I think our operations are consistent with safety standards. Our safety records are pretty good. I think we blew it on this instance. We blew it big time. This is awful. It’s absolutely awful and very emotional to me when there are deaths and people out of their homes.”