A failure of airbrakes may have been the cause of a grain train derailment that killed three crew members near Field, B.C. on Feb. 4.
A new crew had boarded the train, which had been stopped at the entrance to the Upper Spiral Tunnel for about two hours with airbrakes on, the Transportation Safety Board said in a statement on Feb. 5.
“The train began to move on its own,” the statement said. “There were no hand brakes applied on the train. The train then accelerated to a speed well in excess of maximum track speed of 20 mph for the tight curves and steep mountain grade and the train derailed.”
The 112-car grain train left the tracks on a curve just prior to a bridge, with the lead locomotive falling into Kicking Horse River, a drop of about 200 feet.
“Locomotive event recorder data from the lead locomotive has not yet been obtained as the lead locomotive was severely damaged in the derailment,” the safety board’s statement said.
All but 13 of the rail cars and a locomotive at the end of the train left the track.
Media reports say the crew radioed that their train was out of control.
The Spiral Tunnels were excavated in 1909 through the Kicking Horse Pass to reduce a rail grade that exceeded the acceptable industry standard. That section now has a slope grade of 2.2 per cent, one of the steepest in the North America rail network.
The deceased were identified as conductor Dylan Paradis, engineer Andrew Dockrell, and trainee Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer.
Eight railway workers, including the three men, have died in Canada since November 2017, according to the Teamsters, a union representing Canadian rail workers.