The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) held a news briefing on its investigation into the CP Rail derailment that occurred in the early hours of Monday morning, east of Field.
An initial investigation suggests that the train lost control near the top of the Spiral Tunnels, which has been the location of other train accidents, as recently as January 3, 2019.
Three men lost their lives in the derailment that occurred around 1 a.m. MST on February 4, just east of Field, B.C. All three of the men were from Calgary: conductor Dylan Paradis, engineer Andrew Dockrell and trainee Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer.
The crew had just changed over in Partridge, as the previous crew was reaching their maximum hours worked. The train then made its way west, headed for Vancouver. It came to a stop at the Spiral Tunnels, and the emergency brakes were deployed to prevent the train from moving.
.@TSBCanada investigation will determine "how and why the loss of control occurred," after the train began moving and its speed went up to well in excess of the 20km/hr max speed, as well as why no handbrake was applied to keep the train from starting to move. @BlackPressMedia
— Kat Slepian (@katslepian) February 5, 2019
While the train was stopped, initial investigations show that it began to move, even with the brakes deployed. The maximum speed in that area is 20 MPH, and the train began to move faster down the steep terrain.
“There was not anything the crew did, the train just started moving on its own,” said railway/pipeline investigator James Carmichael with the Transportation Safety Board. “The loss of control was a situation where the crew members can no longer maintain the designated track speed. At this time, we still don’t have an exact number of how fast they were travelling.”
The TSB will look into the grade of the tracks in that area, the curvature, and many other elements that could have lead to the accident. Investigators will also look into other investigations performed in the past, and contact part manufacturers,and those who build the components of the train.
The train was originated in Red Deer, and the previous crew transported it to Partridge, where the new crew took over, headed for Vancouver.
When the train had stopped, it was waiting for clearance to ensure there wasn’t any opposing traffic on the tracks. The train did not receive clearance, and began moving on its own, gathering speeds and running off the tracks, killing the three-man crew inside.
“Lots of time when they’re there, they have to wait for the signal before they go so there’s no opposing traffic,” Carmichael said. “We’re going to try to determine why the brakes didn’t stay in place.”
The accident lead 112 train cars to plummet down the steep terrain, coming to a crash at the end, with one car in the Kicking Horse River. The cars were carrying grain, and 40 to 60 cars derailed.
The TSB hasn’t yet had the opportunity to speak with the previous crew that was on board, and the investigation is still in the early stages. Investigators are on site, working with others, to work out what happened between the Spiral Tunnels and the embankment of the Kicking Horse River.
“Investigation will determine how and why the loss of control took place,” Carmichael said.
It is common for CP Rail to run a two-person crew on their trains, but in this instance, there were three with trainee Waldenberger-Bulmer. When asked if this is a typical route for trainees to be working in, given the steep terrain and safety precautions that must be followed, Carmichael said that CP Rail runs their trainee program across Canada to train them as conductors.
“Their trainee program is to train new employees how to operate through all territories. It is done all across Canada,” he said.