Canada·FIFTH ESTATE

'Search your hearts': Families of 2 men killed in CP Rail crash urge witnesses to step forward

One year after a CP Rail derailment in Field, B.C., that killed three men, families of the victims are asking CP employees who may have information about what happened to speak out.

Freight train derailed in Field, B.C., after brakes failed on Feb. 4, 2019

Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer, left, Andrew Dockrell and Dylan Paradis died after a Canadian Pacific Railway freight train derailed near Field, B.C., on Feb. 4, 2019. (Facebook/Submitted by Niki Atherton/Submitted by Pam Fraser)

One year after a Canadian Pacific Rail derailment in Field, B.C., that killed three men, families of two of the victims are asking CP employees who may have information about what happened to speak out.

The families say they aren't sure the truth will come out after they saw a recent documentary by CBC's The Fifth Estate.

In it, a police officer who investigated the accident alleged that he suspected a "coverup" by the railway company after he says they shut his investigation down early.

"I want to say to those who are afraid to come forward, it may be possible to do it anonymously. And especially if you're able to do it anonymously, please come forward," said Pam Fraser.

Fraser's son, Dylan Paradis, 33, was killed, along with engineer Andrew Dockrell, 56, and trainee Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer, 26, on Feb. 4, 2019, when the brakes on CP Train 301 failed. The train flew off the tracks, crashing into the side of a mountain before falling into the river below. 

"The only way to make any kind of changes to prevent horrible things like this from happening in the future is for more people to step out of their comfort zone," said Fraser.

"It's for more people to take chances or risks perhaps … search your hearts, are you afraid to go to work or are you afraid at work? Then perhaps it really is time for you to speak out." 

Pam Fraser with her son Dylan Paradis. She hopes CP employees who may have information about the derailment will come forward. (Submitted by Pam Fraser)

Fraser said one person has already reached out to her directly since the documentary about the crash aired on The Fifth Estate on Jan. 26.

Paradis's father, Les Paradis, a former CP conductor, also made a plea for people to step forward. 

"Tell the truth of what really happened … just lay it on the table and speak from the heart ... and tell us. 'Hey, I heard this happened' because it did happen and it's going to happen again."

Dylan Paradis was found crushed to death between a seat and the roof of the train. 

Les Paradis said he plans on spending the anniversary alone with his family.

"After a year, [the Transportation Safety Board] basically know what went on," said Paradis. 

Carrying guilt

Paradis said he carries guilt and keeps replaying in his mind the lost opportunities over the years when he could have warned Dylan.

"I should have told him that at the top of the hill if anything goes wrong, you should jump or something…. I'm always thinking that I should have said something to him…. It's just like I'm trying to save him…. And I can't."

Paradis said that because his son was found frozen and with serious injuries, he chose not to view his body before he was cremated. As a consequence, he said, it sometimes feels like it's not real and that Dylan isn't dead.  

Dylan Paradis's widow, Jennifer Paradis, is also urging people to step forward.  

"If nobody says anything and nothing gets changed, this happens again to another family. Or many other families," said Paradis. 

Paradis said she understands the fear CP employees have about losing their jobs if they were to speak out, but they owe that much to the victims. 

"These were men you shared bunks with, men you took rides with, men you laughed and shared jokes with and shared family memories with. These guys are your work families. You are supposed to stand up for them. That's what families do. They back them. You should back them, too."

The time since the derailment has taken its toll on the families. 

"I didn't sleep well for the past year," said Edward Dockrell, the younger brother of Andrew Dockrell. "We've cried a railroad tanker car of tears."

Dockrell was at home with his mother when the news came. 

"We heard a banging on the door … we got construction on our street, a couple of houses being built … so I just assumed it was someone wanting me to move my vehicle," said Dockrell.

Once he got the news of what happened, he texted his sister Heather Dockrell, a former CP conductor.

'Do you jump off?'

"It was in text because he couldn't bring himself to say it," she said. "It would be a punch in the face for anybody."

Heather Dockrell, who worked as an engineer on the same track where her brother died, said the safest part of the train if it is derailing is the nose of the unit. 

"No one will know what Andrew was thinking or what the conductor was thinking," she said. "Do you jump off? You know, that's part of our basic training…. Imagine getting off or trying to jump off in those two minutes you have to make that decision."

Andrew Dockrell jumped or was thrown into the icy river and died instantly.

A report from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada into the derailment is expected next year. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

"So there's all those things that go through my mind," said Heather Dockrell. "We'll never know other than [from the recording of] the radio communication."

Those recordings have not been publicly released. 

"There were crews in Field. They may not have heard the whole thing going down when the first crew spoke with the trainmaster but they were listening and heard the whole thing happen," said Heather Dockrell.

Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer's mother, Cari Waldenberger, thinks those listening to the audio transmissions may hold key clues. 

"Anybody who was there in the Partridge bunkhouse in Field Hill … that heard Daniel, Dylan and Andrew on the radio, anybody, can you please come forward?

"I'm so devastatingly angry with whoever made the decision for that train to go, to keep going in those conditions," said Waldenberger. 

"It was a loaded gun waiting to happen…. I am so angry about it because it was preventable."

'What if that was his son?'

Waldenberger aims her anger at CP's top executive, CEO Keith Creel. 

"He has a son in university. What if that was his son that was killed? What would he do?" said Waldenberger. "If this happened to your son, oh, I think you would want things to change."

In an interview with The Fifth Estate's Mark Kelley on Jan. 6, Creel gave assurance that he will address any problems that may come to light once the TSB investigation is complete.

"When all the facts come out, we'll take a look at the facts and if we've made mistakes, then we'll own our mistakes and we'll commit to learning and growing from those mistakes," he said. 

"As far as some conspiracy theory or the truth not coming out, there's no truth in that concern, that's for certain."

Creel said he will not comment on the specific facts of the case until the TSB completes its review.

Waldenberger said she is concerned about the safety of her other son Jeremy, Daniel's twin brother, who still works for CP Rail.

"Does someone need to go to jail for things to change? I don't want anyone to go to jail but I sure darn well want things to change."

Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer’s mother, Cari Waldenberger, thinks those listening to the audio transmissions from crew members before the crash may hold key clues to what happened. (Submitted by Cari Waldenberger)

Reflecting on the past year, Waldenberger said, "The pain has been so unbelievable that I have not been able to get out of bed sometimes."

She hasn't decided yet how she will spend the anniversary.

Her ex-husband, Daniel's father, said he is astonished that CP's own police service investigated the crash.

"How can a company investigate themselves?" said Albert Bulmer.

Watch | Albert Bulmer tells the story of his last meeting with his son:

Albert Bulmer shares the story of his last meeting with his son Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer in the fall of 2019. 0:35

The CP police told The Fifth Estate that they investigated the accident thoroughly and concluded that no charges should be laid.

'Still in limbo'

He feels the TSB report, expected a year from now, is not adequate because it doesn't have the power to determine criminal liability. The delays have been excruciating for him.  

"Everything is still in limbo," he said. "I sit and think of it every day.… It's hard to talk about."

Albert Bulmer with his son Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer during their last visit together in 2019. (Submitted by Albert Bulmer)

Bulmer, along with his other son Jeremy, had encouraged Daniel to apply for the job. Daniel had only been in his position for three months before he was killed. 

He, too, either jumped or was thrown into the water. He survived the initial impact before dying in the river. 

Bulmer, a truck driver, keeps a photo of his son on the dash of his truck.

"He's not coming back, that's for sure. All of us are thinking the same thing coming up to the date."

The anniversary has brought alive memories for Edward Dockrell of how much time his brother spent away from his family while putting in long hours and 33 years at CP. He was just a few years from early retirement. 

"They were all in different stages of their life. Daniel was a young guy. Dylan had two young daughters; that's very sad."

Fraser said she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the accident. Following a year of intense grieving, she is spending the anniversary with her parents in the United States.

"I am here with my mom and dad in Texas to be held by them, to be supported by them, so for the first time to not be the rock [for others]," said Fraser. "They lift me up."

On Feb. 4, she will be going to a musical with them "for a distraction and some happiness and smiles, which there has been a shortage of this past year."

About the Author

Ronna Syed

Reporter

Ronna Syed is a producer with CBC's investigative documentary program The Fifth Estate. You can follow her on Twitter @Ronna_Syed and Instagram @ronna_syed. Send story tips to Ronna Syed at 416-205-6679.

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