British Columbia

27 train cars derailed, petroleum coke spilled in creek east of Prince George, CN says

A CN derailment east of Prince George that sparked a school evacuation involved 27 cars, and spilled petroleum coke in to a creek.

Derailment that led to school evacuation larger than company initially reported

The cars derailed about 200 metres away from Giscome Elementary School. (Mike Kubilius/Contributed )

A freight-train derailment on Thursday near Prince George, B.C., that sparked the evacuation of an elementary school was larger than Canadian National Railway first reported.

On Friday, the rail company said 27 cars went off the tracks, not 20, as first reported.

On Thursday, CN said there were no leaks or spills. But Friday morning, CN said a "small amount" of petroleum coke spilled into a nearby creek. The creek is part of the Fraser River watershed.

Petroleum coke is a "non-hazardous byproduct" of the refining process, the company says.

"CN environmental experts as well as regulatory authorities have been deployed to oversee the physical removal of the product from the creek," said Jonathan Abecassis, CN's senior manager for media relations. 

The company hasn't yet made public what was in all of the derailed cars, saying only that "various commodities" were being transported.

Several crumpled tanker cars were visible along the track Thursday, and some people at the scene noticed a burning smell. CN said there were no fires and no danger to public safety.  

The freight train derailed along the company's east to west mainline, around 200 metres from Giscome Elementary School.

The school was evacuated and staff and 29 students took shelter in a nearby church. The school was closed again Friday. 

CN says it's "apologizing for any inconvenience."

There's still no information about what caused the derailment. The Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

The freight derailment has stalled passenger service between Jasper, Alta., and Prince George and Prince Rupert, B.C.

VIA Rail Canada passenger trains have been suspended or cancelled until at least March 10, spokesperson Marie-Anna Murat said.

She said VIA is working with CN Rail to determine when trains will return to service.  

About the Author

Betsy Trumpener

Reporter-Editor, CBC News

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


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