By Solarina Ho and Randall Palmer
TORONTO/OTTAWA – A Canadian investigator said Thursday he has information that some of the tanker cars in a Canadian National Railway train that derailed and caught fire this week were DOT-111s, a model involved in a series of crude-by-rail accidents.
It was not clear whether the cars were older models of the DOT-111s, which do not meet stricter safety standards introduced in 2011.
“I haven’t actually gone to see the cars. I’ve just received the information that they are (DOT) 111 type of cars,” said Guy Laporte, the investigator leading the probe by Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB), an independent federal agency, into the crash.
The CN Rail train derailed in the eastern Canadian province of New Brunswick on Tuesday night. A total of 19 cars and a locomotive on the 122-car, four-locomotive train came off the rails and some of them are still burning.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board says older models of the DOT-111 are vulnerable to leaks and explosions. The cars have become a focal point in the debate on rail safety regulation as crude-by-rail shipments across the continent surge.
While no one was hurt in Tuesday’s accident, the derailment revived memories of a devastating crash last July, when a runaway train carrying light crude from North Dakota’s Bakken region exploded in the heart of the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47. That train included DOT-111 cars.
Laporte, pressed further on what kinds of cars were involved in the New Brunswick crash, said CN Rail had made clear the train was carrying crude oil.
“(For) the … ones with the crude oil they use the DOT-111, this is the tank car they’re using,” he told a televised briefing in New Brunswick.
Laporte said it was too early to say definitively what caused the derailment of the train, which was also carrying liquid petroleum gas (LPG).
A CN spokesman said preliminary information indicated that a “wheel failure” was the cause.
The TSB’s Laporte said that a broken rail had been found at the site of the accident.
“Yesterday we found a cracked wheel on a car near the front of the train. This wheel moved on the axle and lost the track gauge resulting in the derailment of that wheel set. We also found a broken rail,” said Laporte, adding that only the front part of the train has been inspected.
CN said it was able to gain access to the site of the accident late on Wednesday and was able to move some of the cars that were not on fire overnight.
Two cars carrying LPG and one carrying crude were still burning on Thursday. There was also a smaller fire of locomotive fuel, CN said.