Train Operator Blames Disaster on Firefighters

Says they inadvertently shut off power to brakes during earlier fire

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 9, 2013 12:25 PM CDT

(Newser) – The company that owns the runaway train that decimated the heart of a small Quebec town thinks firefighters working on it hours before the crash are to blame, reports CNN. The firefighters put out a fire aboard the train when it was parked in the town of Nantes. While doing so, "they shut down the engine that was maintaining the brakes that were holding the train," Edward Burkhardt of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway tells CTV. "They didn’t do that on purpose, this was inadvertent." At some point after the fire was out, the train began rolling on its own toward nearby Lac-Megantic, picking up speed as it went because it's a downhill journey. By the time it reached the town, a distance of 8 miles, the driver-less train was out of control.

The Nantes fire chief, meanwhile, tells Reuters that its crew informed an MMA dispatcher of exactly what it did while extinguishing the blaze. "We were there for the train fire," he says. "As for the inspection of the train after the fact, that was up to them." As of today, 13 people were confirmed dead and up to 50 were missing, reports the Montreal Gazette. Canadian transportation officials say it will be awhile before the investigation is complete.

Charred tanker cars are piled up in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Tuesday.
Charred tanker cars are piled up in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Tuesday.   (AP Photo/THE CANADIAN PRESS,Jacques Boissinot)
Investigators dig through the rubble for victims of Saturday's  fiery oil train derailment in Lac-Megantic, Que., on Tuesday.
Investigators dig through the rubble for victims of Saturday's fiery oil train derailment in Lac-Megantic, Que., on Tuesday.   (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jacques Boissinot)
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