The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) says a train that derailed near Field, B.C. on Monday, killing its three-person crew, began moving on its own.
The train was travelling west to Vancouver when it derailed near the Alberta-B.C. border at around 1 a.m. M.T., claiming the lives of conductor Dylan Paradis, locomotive engineer Andrew Dockrell and conductor trainee Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer. All three men were from Calgary.
At a Tuesday morning news conference, TSB senior investigator James Carmichael said Canadian Pacific Railway (CP Rail) train 301 had been stopped with air brakes applied at Partridge, the last station before the entrance to the Upper Spiral Tunnel, for about two hours when “the train began to move on its own.”
A change-off between crews had occurred at this station as the previous crew was closing in on their maximum hours of service,” he said. “The ‘occurrence crew’ had just arrived and boarded the train but were not yet ready to depart.
“We’re going to try and determine why the brakes didn’t stay in place.”
Carmichael explained there were no handbrakes applied on the train while it was stopped.
“The train then accelerated to a speed well in excess of maximum track speed of 20 miles per hour (32 kilometres per hour) for the tight curves and steep mountain grade — and the train derailed.”
Carmichael said they don’t know the exact speed the train was travelling when it derailed.
The train was composed of 112 covered hopper cars and three locomotives positioned at the front, middle and rear of the train. In total, 99 cars and two locomotives derailed.
After the crash, only 13 of the train cars remained on the tracks. The lead locomotive and some of the cars derailed on a curve before a bridge, coming to rest in a creek. Several of the derailed cars came to rest on an embankment. The remaining cars, including the mid-train locomotive, piled up behind.
Event recorder data from the lead locomotive isn’t yet in the possession of the TSB as the locomotive was severely damaged. Some data has been recovered from the tail-end locomotive and work is underway to get data from the mid-train locomotive.
“It is too early to say what the causes and contributing factors to this accident might be,” Carmichael said.
Two TSB investigators remained at the site of the derailment Tuesday to collect data, examine the wreckage and conduct interviews.
Victims being remembered as loving family men
As condolences, messages of support and monetary donations pour in for the victims, their families are remembering them as men who lived life to the fullest and loved their families.
Waldenberger-Bulmer’s twin brother, Jeremy, also worked at CP Rail as a conductor and said his career is what led Daniel to become a trainee. He said his brother started with CP in November and “loved the job so far.”
“We had big plans of living out our careers with CP Rail and retiring together to golf all over the world,” he said.
“Daniel lived an amazing life,” Jeremy said, adding that “half of me is gone now.”
“He got to experience a lot of things in the short time he was with us,” Jeremy said. “He always lived his life to the fullest. He has so many friends that are going to miss him.”
WATCH: Aerial footage shows the extent of the damage after a fatal train derailment near Field, B.C.
Paradis’ family is remembering him as a man who loved his children and family, and said he had an “infectious” smile and “contagious” laugh.
“Our Dylan was an amazing person,” his wife, Jennifer Paradis, said in an emailed statement.
“He was quick-witted, loving, intelligent, gracious and grounded.”
“The sun would rise and set with his daughters and I was lucky to feel his love every day,” Jennifer said. “I will be forever grateful for our beautiful marriage and he will be missed terribly by his loving family and friends.”
A GoFundMe account has been set up to raise money for the families of the three men killed.