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The three Canadian Pacific Rail workers killed in a train derailment near the Alberta-B.C. border on Monday have been identified as a Calgary-based crew.
Conductor Dylan Paradis, engineer Andrew Dockrell and trainee Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer suffered fatal injuries when a westbound freight train left the tracks about 1 a.m. just east of Field, B.C., some 200 km west of Calgary. The accident prompted union leaders to demand action in the wake of a mounting death toll on railway workers.
The train, which had three locomotives and 112 cars, left the tracks while crossing a bridge over the Kicking Horse River, plunging some 60 metres to the icy waters below.
In a statement, CP’s president and CEO Keith Creel said the company is working with Parks Canada on the “complex and challenging” recovery of the train.
“This is a tragedy that will have a long-lasting impact on our family of railroaders,” Creel said. “The incident is under investigation and we will not speculate at this time on a cause — we owe it to those involved to get it right.”
More than a dozen people who knew Waldenberger-Bulmer used social media to express their grief on Monday, some saying they were “lost for words” after hearing the “tragic news” of their friend’s passing. Family of Paradis did not wish to comment on the derailment.
Greg Edwards with the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference said the crew members — a locomotive engineer, a conductor and a conductor trainee — had just taken over the train east of the town.
“Everybody I’ve spoken with, both within the company and within the union, is just devastated by this. It’s just terrible, terrible news,” he said, noting the engineer had more than two decades of railroad experience.
The incident marks the eighth railway worker to have died in Canada since 2017, which prompted TCRC president Lydon Isaack to demand a review of the industry to ensure workers’ safety.
“Today, our focus is on this accident as well as the victims’ friends and families,” she said in a statement. “But moving forward, the government and the rail industry will have to recognize that something is wrong and change is needed. Eight workplace fatalities in a little over a year is not something that should be expected or accepted.”
Sources with the railway told Postmedia the train was travelling about twice the mandated speed when it exited the Lower Spiral Tunnel, which has designated speed limits to prevent potential derailments.
One CP Rail employee — who asked not to be named as he was not permitted to speak on the matter publicly — said the speed limit heading into the tunnels is a maximum of about 32 kilometres per hour. He said the final radio dispatch from the train as it was heading into the Upper Spiral Tunnel reported a speed of about 75 kilometres per hour.
“That’s one of the steepest grades on CP, coming down from the top of the hill,” said the employee. “There’s actually instructions in our timetable about how to come down that hill, like where you should be setting the brakes here and here. It’s very specific and if you do one wrong move, you’re done for.”
The employee said that protocol dictates an emergency brake be applied if a train reaches five kilometres over the limit on that stretch of track, suggesting that cold weather or a mechanical failure may have been a factor.
A second CP Rail source confirmed the train’s speed when exiting the tunnel was well beyond the mandated limits.
Union representative Edwards said he doesn’t know if frigid temperatures played a role in the crash: “Cold isn’t good for train brakes and things, but we’ve been operating in the winter for years and years and years.”
Edwards said it will be tough for equipment and recovery crews to access the ravine where the crash occurred, near the Spiral Tunnels. The tunnels were built 110 years ago to help trains traverse the treacherously steep Kicking Horse Pass.
Railway spokeswoman Salem Woodrow said in a statement that there will be a full investigation to determine what caused the derailment.
“Our condolences and prayers go out to their families, friends and colleagues,” she said.
Eric Collard, a spokesperson with the Transportation Safety Board, said between 40 to 60 cars are believed to have derailed, adding the crash zone is fairly remote but investigators are on site.
British Columbia’s environment ministry confirmed the train was hauling grain, and a locomotive is in the river.
Parks Canada confirmed they were on site managing the incident and co-ordinating the cleanup.
Sixteen cars from a CP train derailed on Jan. 3 in the same area. No one was hurt in that derailment.
This article first appeared on calgaryherald.com
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