Railway Boss: Conductor Didn't Set Brakes

Edward Burkhardt tours the devastation in Quebec

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 10, 2013 2:40 PM CDT

(Newser) – Yesterday, the head of the railway company whose runaway train decimated a small Quebec town suggested that firefighters were to blame for the tragedy. Today, Edward Burkhardt of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway is blaming one of his own employees—the conductor who left the train in the nearby town of Nantes, reports AP. "We think he applied some hand brakes, but the question is did he apply enough of them," Burkhardt said. "He said he applied 11 hand brakes, (and) we think that's not true. Initially we believed him, but now we don't."

The conductor has been suspended without pay for the time being. It's not clear whether Burkhardt still thinks firefighters who extinguished a fire aboard the train in Nantes bear some of the responsibility. The driverless train began rolling on its own at some point after the fire was out, and eventually barreled into Lac-Megantic. Residents heckled Burkhardt, who waited until today to pay his first visit to the crash scene, reports the Toronto Star. “I feel absolutely awful," he said. "I am devastated by what’s happened.” Fifteen people have been confirmed dead, and dozens more remain missing. A complicating factor is that some of the victims might have been vaporized by the explosions, reports CNN.

Edward Burkhardt speaks to the media as he tours Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/ The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)
Angry citizens heckle Edward Burkhardt as he tours Lac-Megantic, Quebec.   (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)
Richard LeFebvre of St. Romain, Quebec, has a message for railway officials.   (AP Photo/David Crary)
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