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RCMP disputes union claim rail-crash help was delayed

THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Aerial view of the train derailment near Ponton, Man. on Sept. 15.</p></p>

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Aerial view of the train derailment near Ponton, Man. on Sept. 15.

OTTAWA — The RCMP is disputing claims by Canada’s largest railway union that paramedics were delayed from responding to a deadly derailment in northern Manitoba.

“All first responders reacted as quickly as possible,” Manitoba RCMP spokeswoman Tara Seel wrote in a Tuesday email to the Free Press.

On Sept. 15, a train along the Hudson Bay Railway derailed south of Thompson, hundreds of kilometres away from the repairs being made between Churchill and Gillam. Two men were crushed; officials pronounced a 38-year-old conductor dead at the scene and airlifted a 59-year-old engineer to Winnipeg.

On Monday, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference asked Manitoba’s chief medical examiner to order an inquest. In an open letter, the union claimed paramedics in a nearby town were not allowed to attend the scene for more than nine hours, and the man who died bled out as a result of his “entirely survivable” injuries.

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OTTAWA — The RCMP is disputing claims by Canada’s largest railway union that paramedics were delayed from responding to a deadly derailment in northern Manitoba.

"All first responders reacted as quickly as possible," Manitoba RCMP spokeswoman Tara Seel wrote in a Tuesday email to the Free Press.

On Sept. 15, a train along the Hudson Bay Railway derailed south of Thompson, hundreds of kilometres away from the repairs being made between Churchill and Gillam. Two men were crushed; officials pronounced a 38-year-old conductor dead at the scene and airlifted a 59-year-old engineer to Winnipeg.

On Monday, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference asked Manitoba’s chief medical examiner to order an inquest. In an open letter, the union claimed paramedics in a nearby town were not allowed to attend the scene for more than nine hours, and the man who died bled out as a result of his "entirely survivable" injuries.

The union said it had no explanation for why paramedics couldn’t board the same helicopter that brought Mounties to the scene, but suggested it could have been related to the risk caused by a diesel leak.

Seel said RCMP officers held the scene for five hours, until Thompson Fire and Emergency Services personnel arrived in a rail car "just before midnight."

First responders "did everything they could to help the conductors in extremely challenging and dangerous conditions," Seel wrote, adding the Thompson paramedics and firefighters offered "invaluable" expertise with hazardous materials and equipment.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said he’s "certainly following" the Teamsters’ allegations, while also awaiting his own department’s regulatory probe and an assessment by the Transportation Safety Board.

"Obviously, we’re interested in getting to the bottom of it," Garneau told the Free Press.

The coroner’s office confirmed Tuesday receiving the union’s letter, which a spokesman said will be added to the investigation the chief medical examiner undertakes whenever someone dies on the job.

Each case takes the chief medical examiner months before a report is issued.

In this case, no report will come until 2019. At that point, the coroner can order a senior provincial judge to launch an inquest if the case is in the public interest.

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Tuesday, October 2, 2018 at 7:02 PM CDT: Corrects link to related PDF

October 3, 2018 at 7:18 AM: Final

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