Feds: Lac-Megantic could be worst train disaster in Canadian history

LAC-MEGANTIC, Que. – The federal Transportation Safety Board has shared details of its upcoming multi-month investigation into what it describes as possibly the worst train disaster in Canadian history.

TSB chair Wendy Tadros says the investigation into the Lac-Megantic tragedy will take many months — and perhaps longer.

She says 20 people are collecting evidence on-site, and 10 more people are working on the case in Ottawa.

“This may well be the most devastating rail accident in Canadian history,” she told a news conference Friday in the town, where she offered her condolences to residents.

“This will be an incredibly complex investigation.

“It will take months — or more.”

Investigators plan to produce a 3D model through laser scanning of images currently being collected at the site of the accident, where 50 are feared to have died.

Four more bodies were found Friday, bringing the total of discovered bodies to 28. Eight of the victims have been officially identified. The Quebec coroner’s office says the names of those people will be released after families have been notified.

Athough the TSB described it Lac-Megantic as possibly the worst train disaster in Canadian history, there were some pre-Confederation train disasters where more people died.

In 1864, 99 were killed in the St-Hilaire, Que., rail disaster when a train plunged into the Richelieu River. In 1854, 52 people were killed in a Baptiste Creek, Ont., crash, in what was the worst rail disaster in North America at the time.

The TSB says investigators will consider the slope of the track around Lac-Megantic; the weight of the train; and the safety practices of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway.

“In the end we will tell Canadians what happened, why it happened, and what needs to be done to ensure it will never happen again,” Tadros said.

“But today we are a long way from there.”

The TSB will also publish statistics online, starting soon, on the safety records from different rail companies because of public demand.

It says it will also immediately share information publicly if, over the course of its investigation, it learns anything that compromises public safety.

It says there will be no train traffic in the area as long as investigations are underway — then what happens afterward is up to the federal Transport department.

The Quebec government has also left open the possibility of a public inquiry.