How did it happen? Questions remain
Published Monday, July 8, 2013 12:02PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 9, 2013 8:25AM EDT
A locomotive fire 13 kilometres away from the massive explosion in Lac-Megantic – in Nantes – could mark the beginning of the disaster that spelled the deaths of five people and likely dozens more. Forty people remain missing as the heart of the town of 6,000 people was incinerated.
"Firefighters put out the fire with foam. We cut the engine off. It's a fuel line that broke on the motor which was making the fire,” explained Nantes fire chief Patrick Lambert.
He said that everything his crew did was correct.
"I checked everything that the officers did, what the firefighters did. I can say that the firefighters followed protocols from one end to the other, and those are MMA protocols," said Lambert, describing the protocols set out by railway company Montreal, Maine and Atlantic.
Firefighters from Nantes put out the flames and left the train in the care of the crew at 12:15 a.m. Saturday. The train's crew has said they made sure everything was secure before leaving again.
Edward Burkhardt, president of MMA, said firefighters shut down the locomotive.
"We are now aware the firefighters shut down the locomotive. By the time MMA people found out, it was too late," he said in an email to CTV Montreal.
From here it is not clear how the train rolled into Lac-Megantic. Though it has so far been unable to inspect the site, the railway believes it may have been a malfunctioning air brake.
Lambert said his department has put out four locomotive fires for the company over the past nine years.
“It's been a real concern for us,” he said.
That concern is echoed in Lac-Megantic as residents wait anxiously for more details on how the train could have caused such massive damage.
Twenty-seven year CP rail veteran Richard Fournier said he has never been impressed with the safety record of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic.
“There have been warning signs! The government was after them seven or eight years ago. They were ready to close the track,” he said.
Even after the extraordinary damage caused by the explosion, a lone locomotive and nine tankers sit idle on the tracks in Nantes.
CTV reporter Kevin Gallagher was easily able to climb aboard one such parked train in Nantes and enter the locomotive's cab.
Hypothetically, he said, could have access to the main control panel.
Many residents said that train has been parked at this point for three days with doors unlocked.
On Monday morning Gallagher and his cameraman boarded the train and walked right into the locomotive, having full access to controls in the cab without even facing a locked door.
The train that crashed and burned in Lac-Megantic was left alone twice the night of the disaster.
Around 1 a.m. the train started rolling down the tracks, crashing in the middle of Lac-Megantic. The train was carrying dozens of tanks of crude oil and sparked an explosion and fire that destroyed 40 buildings and killed at least five people.