OTTAWA — A federal investigator says beavers may have caused Saturday’s derailment on the railway that leads to Churchill, which killed one employee and has leaked diesel into a river.
A train carrying diesel along the Hudson Bay Railway derailed Saturday south of Thompson, crushing two workers from The Pas. Officials pronounced a 38-year-old man dead at the scene. A 59-year-old was airlifted to a Winnipeg hospital with life-threatening injuries; he has since stabilized.
Jerry Berriault, the Transportation Safety Board’s senior investigator for Manitoba, visited the site Monday and said the train derailed because two culverts had washed out. He noted there had been heavy rainfall since spring.
"It looks like there was an upstream release of water somewhere, possibly related to beaver activity," he told the Free Press.
The train was running at 40 km/h when it hit the washout, Berriault said, derailing three locomotives and four cars with cargo including gravel for the Churchill repairs and fuel. The train spanned 25 cars when it derailed, he said.
Separate from the TSB, Transport Canada sent four inspectors to the derailment site. "Two inspectors remain onsite to monitor response operations in the interest of public safety, and the other two were gathering evidence for an occupational health and safety investigation," wrote spokeswoman Annie Joannette.
She said the two inspectors will "determine whether there were contraventions of health and safety requirements" under the Canada Labour Code, which forbids publicly stating whether officials identified non-compliance. If they find violations of railway laws on transporting dangerous goods, that information could become public.
Officials from the provincial Sustainable Development department are also on scene, trying to clean up diesel the train has leaked into the Metishto River.
The train was also carrying gasoline, liquid propane gas and butane, but there has been no indication that any of that has spilled or leaked.
Some 450 kilometres east of the incident, repairs are ongoing in a race against time to restore rail service along the end of the line, patching up the May 2017 washouts between Gillam and Churchill before November’s freeze-up.
A spokesman for Arctic Gateway, which took over the Hudson Bay Railway on Aug. 31, has said the incident could delay last-minute efforts to repair the line.
"It’s certainly going to impact getting material up there," Berriault said.
VIA Rail says it has been forced to suspend operations between Winnipeg and Gillam because of the derailment.
"Service on this 1,400-km segment will be restored as soon as the infrastructure is determined to be safe for passenger service," Via Rail said in a statement Tuesday.
The office of Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr said he’s closely watching the repairs leading to Churchill, including whether the derailment will alter those plans.
"My heart goes out to all of the family, friends and coworkers affected by this tragedy on the Churchill line," Carr tweeted Sunday.
Arctic Gateway have stressed their crews will not compromise safety by rushing repairs to the May 2017 washouts.
firstname.lastname@example.org— with files from The Canadian Press
Updated on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 at 6:57 PM CDT: Fixes typo in deck
10:01 PM: Updates headline