Train safety investigator wants RCMP to probe fatal CP mountain crash
Calls mount for outside police investigation of B.C. derailment amid suspicion of ‘coverup’
The lead safety investigator looking into the fatal runaway crash of a Canadian Pacific Railway freight train last February at the Spiral Tunnels near Field, B.C., says the RCMP should step in to investigate potential negligence by the railway company.
"There is enough to suspect there's negligence here and it needs to be investigated by the proper authority," Transportation Safety Board senior investigator Don Crawford told CBC News on Monday.
His comments come on the heels of an investigation by CBC News and The Fifth Estate that revealed a string of safety failures at CP Rail as well as allegations by a former CP police officer who suspects a "coverup" by the railway.
Engineer Andy Dockrell, conductor Dylan Paradis and trainee Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer were killed on Feb. 4, 2019, when brakes on their loaded CP grain train failed, allowing the train to run away down a mountain. Ninety-nine rail cars derailed and the train's lead locomotive landed in the frigid Kicking Horse River.
A spokesperson for the safety agency late Monday issued a statement saying the "the TSB stresses that it does not share the view of the lead safety investigator looking into the crash."
The TSB examines all major rail, air and sea accidents in Canada to make safety recommendations but has no power to lay charges or investigate criminal matters. The agency's website says the TSB does not "assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability."
The investigation is ongoing and it's not expected the TSB will release its findings for at least another year.
Still, the union representing CP's train conductors and engineers is echoing the call for the RCMP to get involved now, believing the investigation by CP's own police force isn't good enough.
"Given the controversy surrounding the criminal investigation into this tragedy, it's obvious that we must involve the RCMP," Lydon Isaak, president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, said in an emailed statement Monday. "Every effort must be made to uncover the root causes and to ensure this never happens again."
François Laporte, the national president of Teamsters Canada, said in the same statement that "if CP has nothing to hide, they should welcome an outside investigation for the sake of the families and all those affected by this disaster."
The RCMP has told CBC News that given the crash happened on CP Rail property, it was left to CP's federally authorized police force to lead the criminal probe.
"There was no request or requirement for the RCMP to conduct a parallel investigation," an RCMP spokesperson said in an email in December.
However, the RCMP said Monday they are "reviewing the file to determine our next steps," but have not said whether they will open their own criminal probe.
This follows CBC reports detailing breakdowns involving failing brakes, poor maintenance and inspection of CP's mountain grain cars and allegations from an ex-CPPS officer who claims his bosses ordered him to focus his investigation only on the actions of crew members and not the company.
The CP Police Service has said the officer's claims are those of a "disgruntled former employee."
CPPS has also said the scope of its investigation was "to determine actions of the crew members prior to the event regarding any outside factors that may have led or contributed to the incident itself."
It says the investigation was "thorough" and resulted in no charges.
"Should the TSB, or the RCMP for that matter, require anything further from CP, we are more than willing to accommodate, and we have been from the outset," a CP Rail spokesperson said in an email Monday.