New documents disclose disturbing details

Chuck Strahl, Canada's minister responsible for rail safety

By Jack Locke

Newly disclosed documents shed more light on the Turcot Train Tragedy and the VIA Rail train that hit three young men in Montreal at 3 A.M., Oct. 31, 2010. Not very pleasant light.

The bundle of documents reveal the Transportation Safety Board of Canada(TSB), Canadian National Railways Ltd.(CN), Transport Canada, and VIA Rail all repeatedly call the 3 dead youths, Dylan Ford, Mitchell Bracken-Guenet, and Ricardo Conesa, “trespassers.”

The various event reports place blame for the incident almost instantly upon the dead teens and nothing in the documents suggest any responsibility for the deaths be placed on the shoulders of VIA Rail. The lack of questioning in the documents by various investigators is remarkable.

A CN Incident Report written at 4:58 A.M, Oct. 31—the morning of the incident—shows this clearly.

“P66831-30 proceeding eastward at 70 mph on south track at mile 4.7 Montréal sub(subdivision), hit 3 trespassers walking between the rails. Never moved. 3 fatalities.”

Never moved.

The author of the incident report does not question why they never moved.

The document confirms a surviving witness’s story that the youngsters were given no warning by the train. This raises at least three important questions.

Was the train being driven with due care and attention? Were existing safety devices operating? Was VIA’s safety management system adequate?

Without further information, these questions cannot currently be positively answered. But it is becoming apparent that there was a major failure by VIA Rail. VIA has decided to withhold requested information.

According to one document, believed to be a VIA Rail accident summary form, the author suggests the incident occurred in the Turcot Tunnel and repeats placing blame on the teens.

“Train struck and fatally(word missing) 3 male trespassers aged 17-19 in tunnel. 2 other trespassers were not injured.”

Another important part of the report discloses an area that requires greater investigation.

In the report a box titled, CauseCodeCategory, lists a rather inspecific answer.

“MISCELLANEOUS CAUSES NOT OTHERWISE LISTED,” reads the form.

The detail about the location of the impact is contradicted in an Oct. 31 email from Transport Canada investigator Sal Pizzanelli to his colleague.

Pizzanelli identifies the location of the tragedy at 500 feet west of the tunnel.

“It was clear that the south most track had paint strewn along the track for about 150 paces or 500 feet from the west right up to the entrance of the tunnel.

“This clearly meant that the impact was at that point as the officers indicated that the 5 boys were walking from the west towards the tunnel but were hit before. The ties for a distace(sic) of 300 to 400 feet indicate that something was dragged over it. There is at least one 20 litre can of paint along the ditch and other stuff I cannot mention here.”

Regardless whether the young men were carrying paint or other stuff, regardless of whether the young men were trespassing or working for the railway, it is unacceptable for three people to be killed by a train.

The investigation continues.

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2 Responses to “New documents disclose disturbing details”

  1. Coroner’s report D.O.A. | Lockeblog Says:

    […] train was travelling within the speed limit, at 63 MPH? As I reported, this was contradicted by a CN Incident Report that noted the train was travelling at 70 MPH. The locomotive event recorder can confirm the […]

  2. publicpoetry Says:

    Reblogged this on Lockeblog and commented:

    I am reposting my series on The Turcot Train Tragedy as it approaches the second anniversary of that horrible event. Alas, with no government accountability. Installment 14.

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