The major rail accident in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on 6 July 2013
Chair of the Board, Transportation Safety Board of Canada
12 July, 2013
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En mon nom et en celui de tous les employés du BST, j’offre aux gens de la communauté de Lac-Mégantic nos sincères condoléances. We all share this community’s pain.
Since being briefed early Saturday morning, I keep coming back to those in the Musi Café that night.
This may well be the most devastating rail accident in Canadian history. I am sorry I cannot do more to relieve your grief. Ce qui est en mon pouvoir, c’est de vous assurer que tous les membres de l’équipe d’enquête du BST feront leur travail, et même plus.
We will ensure that this community and all Canadians get the answers they need. We have made this investigation an absolute top priority.
The expertise we need is in place, and we are adding to that expertise as required. Every day we assess the needs and adjust as necessary. We are now approaching 20 experts on site and 10 more in head office.
I’ve met with the TSB team here on the ground. Their job is to conduct a full and independent safety investigation. And from what I can see, they are doing an admirable job under difficult circumstances.
I also came here today to meet with some community leaders from Lac Mégantic. I assured them that we will find the answers they need, that they deserve.
When it comes to responding to major accidents, we have experience. Amongst thousands of investigations, we handled the Swissair disaster, the sinking of the Queen of the North, and we have investigated hundreds and hundreds of rail accidents—and many runaways, some in mountain territory like in Edson, Alberta, or Lillooet, British Columbia, or here in Quebec on the Quebec North Shore & Labrador Railway.
The science is the same, and the TSB has to follow the science—and be careful not to draw premature conclusions.
What we are looking at—as in all runaways—is the grade, the train weight, the number of brakes set, and the company’s practices and procedures. We must examine the locomotives and the tank cars.
However, before anything is moved, we need to document it all. We are doing that now through photogrammetry of the site.
With the assistance of the National Transportation Safety Board in the United States, we will perform 3D laser scanning to create a model that will help determine how the tanks failed and exploded.
We will interview dozens of witnesses and examine every piece of evidence, applying the full strength of our collective expertise.
In the end, we will tell Canadians what happened, why it happened. and what needs to be done to ensure it will not happen again.
But we are a long way from there. First and foremost, we need to investigate. There is much we do not know. There are many questions we need to ask and answer.
We need to find the facts, stick to those facts, and speak to those facts only when we know for sure.
This will be an incredibly complex investigation. It will be intensive. And I want to be clear: it will take months or more. I know the families and loved ones want information soon.
We will share information with the community and media— including filling in the timeline in the coming weeks—once it has been fully validated.
If along the way we discover urgent safety issues, we will act quickly to make them known, so that Transport Canada and the rail industry can take immediate action.
We commit to updating our website regularly, and tweeting information and photographs.
We are also proactively sharing accident data on individual railway companies such as the Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway. Next we will be providing statistics for all our major railways.
And in the coming weeks we will make data available on all of Canada’s shortline railways.
The outcome of this investigation will be to improve railway safety. There will be lessons learned.
We will clearly point out how railways can be made safer for Canadians and for our towns and cities. That is TSB’s commitment to this community, and to all Canadians. C’est l’engagement du BST envers cette communauté, et envers tous les Canadiens.
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