Derailment caused by multiple errors

An report about a train accident near Golden over a year ago has come in.

A recent report conducted by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada regarding the derailment of two Canadian Pacific Railway trains on March 3, 2010 near the KC Junction, confirmed that it was an accident that involved crew errors.

“(The incident) resulted in the dismissal of the two employees in question following an extensive internal investigation,” said Ed Greenberg, CP spokesperson. “This was a significant accident caused by crew errors and served as a clear reminder why the safety of our employees and the safety of the residents in which we operate must be an ongoing commitment.”

The accident, which involved eastbound train No. 300 colliding with the middle of an oncoming train (westbound CP train 671-037 departing from Golden), which was switching over to a parallel track, resulted in three locomotives and 26 cars being derailed, after a failure to obey a stop signal. The crew on train 300 walked away from the crash, but were transported to the hospital for observation, where it was determined that the locomotive engineer was in serious enough condition to be air-lifted to a Calgary hospital.

“The crew aboard train 300 conducted numerous cellular telephone communications (voice and text) in the three hour period prior to the accident,” the report read.

“A detailed safety investigation was completed by our company, which reinforced that CP should continue with a number of Crew Resource Management initiatives to reduce in-cab distraction, enhance communication and focus attention on critical tasks to maintain situational awareness and safe train operations,” said Greenberg.

According to CROR General Rule A, the use of communication devices must be restricted to matters pertaining to railway operations, and cellular telephones must not be used when normal railway radio communications are available.

In response to this, and several other recent collisions, CP revised the rules, now stating that employees are prohibited from using personal electronic devices, and that they must be turned off, with any ear pieces removed, and stored out of sight in a location not on their person.

After being transported to hospital, “the conductor was tested for alcohol and drugs approximately 6.5 hours after the accident. However, the locomotive engineer lost consciousness and was air-lifted to Calgary Foothills Hospital. At approximately 1:30 a.m. the following day (i.e. 11 hours 20 minutes after the accident), he was tested for drugs and alcohol,” said the TSBC report.

“It was later determined that the locomotive engineer had been exposed to marijuana, sometime prior to the accident. In an attempt to mask the exposure, he drank approximately 10 litres of water shortly after the accident, which resulted hypotremia (i.e. water intoxication). The ingestion of water and the delay in alcohol and drug testing likely affected the usefulness of the tests.”

“Canadian Pacific meets or exceeds all regulations in place to ensure safe train operations, this includes pre-employment screening and post-incident drug testing, but at present, under Canadian law, no companies, including CP, can administer random drug testing,” said Greenberg.

Canadian Pacific has remained the safest railway in North America for the past five consecutive years and 11 out of the past 13 years, and Greenberg assures that the company is doing what they can to keep it that way. The TSBC also acknowledged the company had already moved toward taking steps to try to prevent a similar incident from happening again.