A railcar full of asphalt rolled away from the Co-op oil refinery complex in Regina and crossed seven streets before coming to a stop, according to Transportation Safety Board officials, who are investigating the incident that happened earlier this week.

"It did cross seven streets," Jerry Berriault, a senior investigator for the board, said Friday. He noted that three of the streets are equipped with crossing gates and all of the streets have warning devices that are supposed to activate automatically.

"All of those should have functioned as intended," he said. "It's set off by the approaching train traffic."

It was not known if the signals operated properly during the incident, but officials said there were no injuries associated with the railcar rolling away.

The company that was handling the car, a subcontractor working at the refinery, said Friday afternoon that a crew error was to blame.

"We made a mistake," said Lee Jebb, a vice-president of Cando Rail Services. "We're pretty disappointed."

According to Jebb, a handbrake on the car was not applied. He said crew members notified authorities, including police.

"This thing happens pretty quick," Jebb said. "We contacted police, we contacted CN. And then by that point in time the car had come to a stop."

News about what happened was confirmed after inquiries by CBC News on Friday morning.

"Thank heavens there was no injuries at all, because this could have been more serious," Regina Mayor Michael Fougere said Friday.

The railcar rolled away from the refinery, which is on the eastern edge of the city, and came to a stop about four kilometres away, west of Albert Street in Regina, around 12:10 a.m. CST Wednesday. It took about 15 minutes to cover that distance.

"Based on the terrain and the type of grade that we're talking about here, it's likely that it didn't get up to a very fast rate of speed," Berriault said. "We don't know the exact speed just yet."

He said the TSB is still gathering information about what happened.

Berriault added that the safety board learned about the incident soon after it was reported to CN, which owns the line involved.

Officials at the refinery were also informed.

"We are aware of the incident involving a lone railcar that did leave the refinery on March 2 on the CN line," said Brad Delorey, director of communications and public affairs at the Co-op refinery.

Cando Rail Services is a subcontractor at the refinery.

"The railcar left the refinery and ended up as a lone car on the crossing at Robinson Street, behind a Toys R Us store and Giant Tiger, and south of Pony Park," Delorey said.

He said the Co-op is working with regulators to get to the bottom of the incident.

"Obviously for us, you know, safety is always our priority," he said.

CN spokeswoman Kate Fenske said the incident had nothing to do with CN, except for happening on a CN line.

"The incident at the Co-op refinery March 2 involved a contract rail operating company called Cando. It wasn't CN," she said. "It was not involving any CN crews or people."

Subcontractor suspended

Mayor Fougere added he wants to know more about how information about the incident was reported, and to whom.

"We found out … through media reports this morning," Fougere said. "[I'm] quite concerned about that."

Regina police said Friday that they were "gathering more information about the incident and the communication around it".

The official from CN said Cando has been suspended from working on its system.

"We do take this incident very seriously and immediately halted Cando crews from operating on our network as the incident is investigated and as CN, working with Transport Canada, reviews Cando's operating procedures and safety practices," Fenske said.

Railcar returned to refinery

According to officials from Cando, crew members noticed right away that the car was rolling away from them.

"Cando employees … saw the car begin to move and immediately took action to bring it under control," Julie Pomehichuk, a spokeswoman for Cando, said in a statement. "The car was secured within 15 minutes without incident and later returned to the CN yard. There were no injuries or damages."

Pomehichuk said Cando notified the TSB and CN right away. She said the company "has been in constant communication with CN, the Co-op Refinery Complex and the TSB and Transport Canada since the event."

Rail operations have been suspended at the yard until the incident is fully investigated, she said. 

Corrections

  • The map has been updated to correct the route from the Co-op oil refinery.
    Mar 07, 2016 11:11 AM CT

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this article quoted Co-op spokesperson Brad Delorey, saying that Cando is a subcontractor of CN. Delorey has since clarified that Cando is a subcontractor of the refinery.
    Mar 04, 2016 12:57 PM CT