One man dead after serious train derailment south of Thompson, Man.

Two workers had been trapped in a locomotive near Thompson, Man., and were there for hours as emergency services personnel tried to free them, fire officials say. One man was pronounced dead on scene, RCMP have now confirmed.

One man airlifted to hospital with 'life-threatening injuries', RCMP say

Fire officials in Thompson Man. say two people were trapped in a locomotive after a train derailed on a remote section of the Hudson Bay Rail line near Ponton, Man., Saturday night. (CBC)

One man is dead and another has been taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries after a freight train derailed in northern Manitoba on Saturday, according to RCMP. 

RCMP said Sunday afternoon that a 38-year-old was pronounced deceased at the scene, while a 59-year-old was extricated from the locomotive and was now in hospital.

The two workers were from The Pas, Man., RCMP say. 

"Sadly, one of our employees working on the locomotive has been confirmed by authorities as deceased. A second employee has sustained serious injuries and has been airlifted to hospital," says a statement issued by the Arctic Gateway Group, the company that operates the railway. "The RCMP is in the process of notifying the families.

"The Arctic Gateway Group will be also be making direct contact with family members and all of our employees and communities in the coming days as we all attempt to cope with this tragedy," the statement continued.

One of the men trapped was freed overnight and airlifted to hospital in Winnipeg with serious injuries, according to fire officials. Police on Sunday said he remained in hospital in life-threatening condition.

An official with the Thompson fire department previously said that both men had been freed.

But Mike Bourgon, chief of Thompson Fire & Emergency Service, later informed CBC News that one man remained on scene. 

'I imagine they knew what was coming'

RCMP were called to the derailment around 5:45 p.m. Saturday when a rail bridge gave out on a remote section of the Hudson Bay Rail line near Ponton, Man.

The two workers had been trapped in a locomotive and were there for hours as emergency services personnel tried to free them, said Adrienne Burton with Thompson Fire & Emergency Services. 

"We had paramedics with the two males the entire time, just kinda maintaining vital signs and contact with them to keep them calm," she said. 

Ponton is roughly 145 kilometres southwest of Thompson, Man., and roughly 545 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.

On Sunday, RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Paul Manaigre said because of the remote location of the crash site, the derailment could have happened "a few hours" before police were first called.

He said a helicopter pilot first noticed the derailed train while flying over the area and called police, who had to be airlifted into the crash site.

Manaigre said both of the trapped men were conscious when police first arrived and were able to speak with officers.

He said one of the trapped employees told officers they did not see a bridge when they came around a turn in the track.

"I can't imagine — it's not like a vehicle, you can't stop right away — once they saw that I imagine they knew what was coming," he said, adding investigators are still looking into whether or not the bridge was standing at the time.

"We're not sure, was it washed out or was it just partially damaged and when the train went over it took the rest of it out? Obviously there's a few scenarios that have to be examined.

"The focus is going to be on what happened in front of that locomotive prior to the derailment."

Manaigre said investigators don't yet know how fast the train was going when the cars left the tracks.

Company investigating cause 

Murad Al-Katib, president of AGT Foods, one of the partners of the Arctic Gateway Group, plans to be on the ground today. 

He said the company is cooperating with emergency services teams on site and is doing their own investigation into what happened, "to make sure that we can understand the incident... and we do our best to prevent any sort of incident like this in the future."

"It's very, very early, but we will do our best to give further updates," he said. 

"Our hearts are heavy today, and we are very sorry for our loss and our prayers are with the families."

He said he couldn't provide any status updates on the man who was airlifted to hospital. 

Jim Scott, mayor of The Pas, said Sunday the town is working through the tragedy.

"They're our friends and neighbours," he said, adding the two men are well-liked in the community.

"These things should never happen — a person should never have to go to work and die."

On Sunday afternoon Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister tweeted his condolences and thanked the first responders who worked to rescue the trapped men.

"We are heartbroken to hear of the death of a railway worker in last night's derailment near Wabowden," he said in the tweet.

"Our condolences go to his family and friends. We wish a full recovery to his co-worker, and express our appreciation to the brave first responders who attended at the scene."

Train was carrying petroleum 

The train had three locomotive engine cars and 27 cars carrying liquefied petroleum gas at the time of the derailment and a HAZMAT crew was sent from Thompson along with rescue equipment.

The Arctic Gateway Group said at this point, they don't believe any of the railcars were compromised. 

"The Arctic Gateway Group is monitoring this situation very closely, and we have been advised that at this time there does not appear to be any significant environmental danger to nearby areas resulting from the derailment," says the statement from the company. 

On Saturday night, Deputy Capt. Selby Brown of Thompson Fire & Emergency Services said the first seven cars went off the track, and early reports indicated none of the cars were leaking their load.

The train had been going over a creek bed or bog when it derailed, Brown said. 

Multiple agencies including RCMP, the Snow Lake Fire Department and the Northern Health Authority were helping efforts at the scene late Saturday.

Transport Canada is now investigating with the assistance of RCMP. 

In a statement late Sunday, Transport Canada said two inspectors are at the derailment site and have confirmed none of the cars are leaking.

The department said "appropriate action" would be taken should investigators find any non-compliance with rail safety and transportation of dangerous goods rules and regulations.

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  • A previous version of this story stated that a second person had been freed Sunday morning. That was incorrect information from the Thompson fire department.
    Sep 16, 2018 12:39 PM CT