VANCOUVER ISLAND - After an investigation of a logging train derailment that claimed three lives last year, WorkSafeBC found that faulty equipment and an array of mechanical errors were at fault.
On April 20, 2017, a faulty coupler - the piece that connects rail cars together - caused 11 cars loaded with logs to detach. The detached cars rolled down the track for about 500 yards before crashing directly into a railway maintenance car (known as a speeder) where five men were working.
The men operating the speeder tried to apply the brakes to no avail. The speeder and railcars rolled for about a mile before they all derailed. The men on the speeder were buried by logs. Three were killed and two were seriously injured.
WorkSafeBC, a British Columbia agency with a similar role as OSHA, found that the train, operated by Canadian giant Western Forest Products, would have derailed a ways before it reached the maintenance crew, but a derail mechanism wasn’t working properly. The device failed to divert the wheels to the right and forcing a derailment earlier. The mechanism was attached to old rail ties that had long since rotted away, making it useless.
A reload operator tried to alert the crew down the line, but there was no response. The WorkSafeBC report doesn't give a reason why.
“The safety and security of our employees has and always will be our number one priority," Western Forest Products said in a statement. "This was a tragic incident that will forever impact the families of those lost and injured, all of those who worked alongside them and our company as a whole. We continue to work to ensure that families, workers and all affected by this tragic incident are supported in any way we can.”
Western did not disclose whether it has or will compensate any of the victims' families or injured men.
The company officially shut down the train and rail line in November of last year, despite the wishes of a logging union to keep it running with improvements. The train was the last such logging line in operation. At peak operations, 34 were employed on the line.
Western Forest Products is an integrated Canadian forest products company and is the largest coastal British Columbia woodland operator and lumber producer.
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