British Columbia

Train that derailed near B.C. school was carrying extremely flammable propane: TSB

The Transportation Safety Board says seven rail cars carrying dangerous goods were among the 27 that derailed March 5, about 40 km east of Prince George.

CN did not disclose what was in all the cars that derailed east of Prince George

A CN train derailed March 5 east of Prince George. The TSB now says 28 cars went off the tracks, including 7 carrying dangerous goods. (Submitted by Mike Kubilius)

A CN derailment that forced a school evacuation in B.C. last week included seven train cars carrying liquefied petroleum gas, an extremely flammable, dangerous product, according to the Transportation Safety Board.

The TSB had two investigators at the derailment site on the CN main line, about 44 kilometres east of Prince George in Giscome.

CN did not reply to repeated requests to identify the contents of all the cars.

Transport Canada's website says liquefied petroleum gas, also known as LPG or propane, is extremely flammable, easily ignited by heat and able to form explosive mixtures when mixed with air.

The evacuated school, Giscome Elementary, is just 200 metres from the railway line.

A safety placard on the side of the rail car in this file photo shows what's being transported. In this case it's liquefied petroleum gas, which is highly flammable. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

In 2013, a CN Rail train carrying liquefied petroleum gas and crude oil derailed, exploded and burned west of Edmonton, forcing an evacuation of the rural community of Gainford. In that incident, nine LPG cars derailed, the TSB said.

In the derailment in northern B.C. last week, CN initially said 20 cars had gone off the tracks, with no leaks or spills.

The next day, CN said 27 cars had derailed, and petroleum coke had spilled into a creek. 

Now, TSB spokesperson Alex Fournier said investigators have determined 28 cars derailed, including 20 carrying petroleum coke, seven with liquefied petroleum gas, and one carrying methanol, which remained upright. 

Children still out of school 

Fournier said TSB investigators have now concluded their on-site work. 

Meanwhile, school district 57 says the rural elementary school evacuated after the derailment will be closed for the rest of the week.

A spokesperson said students from Giscome Elementary School will be bussed to another school until the rail site is cleaned up. 

The freight train derailed just a few hundred metres from an elementary school. (Submitted by Catharine Kendall)


Betsy Trumpener

Reporter-Editor, CBC News

Betsy Trumpener has won numerous journalism awards, including a national network award for radio documentary and the Adrienne Clarkson Diversity Award. Based in Prince George, B.C., Betsy has reported on everything from hip hop in Tanzania to B.C.'s energy industry and the Paralympics.