July 11, 2013

Thirty still missing in train crash likely dead

As total deaths hit 50, the train company's president blames the fiery wreck on an engineer.

The Associated Press

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Rail World Inc. president Edward Burkhardt speaks to the media as he tours Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on Wednesday, July 10, 2013. A Rail World train crashed into the town killing at least 15 people. Burkhardt blamed the accident on an employee who he said had failed to properly set the brakes. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

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Angry citizens heckle Rail World Inc. President and CEO Edward Burkhardt as he tours Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on Wednesday.

AP

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Quebec police have said they were pursuing a wide-ranging criminal investigation, extending to the possibilities of criminal negligence and some sort of tampering with the train before the crash. The heart of the town's central business district is being treated as a crime scene and remained cordoned off by police tape.

At a news conference shortly before Burkhardt's arrival, the Quebec Premier faulted his company's response.

"We have realized there are serious gaps from the railway company from not having been there and not communicating with the public," Marois said. She depicted Burkhardt's attitude as "deplorable" and "unacceptable."

Burkhardt, who arrived in town with a police escort, said he had delayed his visit in order to deal with the crisis from his office in Chicago, saying he was better able to communicate from there with insurers and officials in different places.

"I understand the extreme anger," he said. "We owe an abject apology to the people in this town."

In an exchange with reporters, Burkhardt defended the practice of leaving trains unmanned, as was the case when the train rolled away. Canadian transportation department officials have said there are no regulations against it.

"For the future we, and I think probably the rest of the industry, aren't going to be leaving these trains unmanned," Burkhardt said. "We'll take the lead with that. I think the rest of the industry is going to follow."

Among the residents looking on as Burkhardt spoke was Raymond Lafontaine, who is believed to have lost a son, two daughters-in-law and an employee in the disaster.

"That man, I feel pity for him," Lafontaine said. "Maybe some who know him properly may think he's the greatest guy in the world, but with his actions, the wait that took place, it doesn't look good."

The disaster forced about 2,000 of the town's 6,000 residents from their homes, but most have been allowed to return.

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Additional Photos

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Environment Canada emergency inspectors check on nine MM&A tanker cars that remain on the tracks in Nantes, Quebec, Wednesday. A train engineer reportedly rushed to borrow a tractor from an area forestry company; grabbed a fireman's suit from an area department; and pushed nine fuel-filled cars weighing 100 tons away from the explosive danger on the night of the derailment, according to the company.

AP

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Richard LeFebvre, of the nearby town of St. Romain, awaits the arrival Wednesday of Edward Burkhardt, president and CEO of the railway company that owns the train that derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

AP

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A makeshift memorial for victims of Saturday's oil train derailment and explosions is set up in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on Wednesday.

AP

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Workers lay booms on the Chaudiere River near Lac-Megantic, Quebec, to contain the crude oil spill following a train derailment and explosion.

AP

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The investigation continues on Wednesday in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, where searchers have recovered at least 15 bodies from the wreckage so far, but they are so badly burnt that authorities have not been able to identify them.

AP

 


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