British Columbia

Cellphones and pot factors in CP Rail crash

A new report says cellphone and marijuana use by locomotive engineers may have contributed to a CP Rail crash near Golden, B.C., that spilled more than 11,000 litres of diesel fuel and derailed 26 cars in 2010.

2010 crash near Golden, B.C., spilled diesel and potash

Three locomotives and 26 rail cars derailed when the two trains crashed near Golden, B.C., on March 2, 2010. (TSB)

A new report by the Transportation Safety Board says cellphones and marijuana use by CP Rail locomotive engineers may have contributed to a crash near Golden, B.C., last year.

More than 11,000 litres of diesel fuel spilled and 26 cars and three locomotives were tossed off the tracks when an empty eastbound CP freight rammed a westbound train hauling potash on March 3, 2010.

According to a report, no one was seriously hurt in the crash itself, but two CP employees were taken to local hospital as a precaution afterward.

Another engineer had to be airlifted to Calgary, but not because he was injured in the crash. He was so worried about testing positive for marijuana he gulped 10 litres of water, which caused him to pass out.

The report concluded the engineer had been exposed to marijuana prior to accident, but delays in the testing increased the risk of an inconclusive result.

A final report from the TSB also concluded the crew of the eastbound train was talking and texting on their cellphones, with one call ending just moments before the collision.

As a result they may have been overly distracted by a signal from a newly installed hot box detector and not the signals telling them to stop the train, the report concluded.

It concluded "The crew’s situational awareness was likely focused on resolving the HBD issue related to the reported hot wheels and not on the impending requirement to stop the train."

CP Rail spokesman Ed Greenberg said the railway is taking steps to improve drug testing and tighten its policies on cellphone use as a result of the incident, said Greenberg.

"The employees in question have been dismissed for their role. We appreciate this was a significant incident for our company. It was caused by crew and we have taken steps to ensure it doesn't happen again," he said.

With files from The Canadian Press