Quotes from head of rail company in Lac-Mégantic explosion

Highlights of what Edward Burkhardt, the owner of the company that operated the train that ran off the tracks in Lac-Mégantic, Que., has said about the tragic accident that killed at least 15 people and possibly as many as 60.

What Edward Burkhardt, CEO of Rail World Inc., has said about his company's train derailment

Angry reception for railroad head


8 years ago
Jeers and insults aimed at Ed Burkhardt by residents of Lac-Mégantic 8:02

The CEO of the company that operated the train that ran off the tracks in Lac-Mégantic, Que., setting off a massive explosion and killing at least 20 people and possibly as many as 60, visited the site of the tragedy Wednesday.

Edward Burkhardt, chairman and CEO of Chicago-based Rail World Inc., whose subsidiary Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway Inc. operated the train, has made several statements to the media about the fatal derailment.

Below are a few highlights of what he has said.

At a press conference in Lac-Mégantic Wednesday:

"If I lived here, I would be very angry with the management of this company." 

— Expressing sympathy with local residents who vented their anger at Burkhardt as he toured the town.

"It's like a war zone." 

— After seeing the destruction in the small town of around 6,000 people.

"It seems an adequate number of hand brakes were not set, and this is the engineer's responsibility. I don't think he'll be back working with us." 

— Explaining what he thinks caused the accident and who is ultimately responsible.

In an interview with Radio-Canada on Tuesday:

"I want to make clear that I'm not blaming the fire department. I've been quoted as doing that. The fire department, I think, acted reasonably. They certainly were not aware of the consequences of what they were doing." 

—  Discussing firefighters' decision to shut down the train's engine after they were called to the stopped train by a passerby who had spotted a fire in the locomotive. It was that shutdown that caused the air brakes to release and allowed the train to roll away.

"The MMA (Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway) … is over 10 years old. During this time, this is the only mainline derailment of any significance that we've had on our own trackage. We've had a number of small incidents like railways everywhere do."

— Responding to allegations that there have been other derailments and hazardous material spills on his company's railway.

"I think we blew it on this instance. We blew it big time. This is awful. It's absolutely awful.... But overall, our operation, I think, is entirely consistent with industry standards, and our safety record is pretty good. And it has been improved over a period of time." 

— On Rail World and MMA's safety record.

"The two-man crew didn't have anything whatsoever to do with this incident or anything else.… If you go overseas, almost everybody is one-man crews. Go to the U.K. that's running 1,000 freight trains and 10,000 passenger trains every day,  all with one-man crews." 

— Responding to criticism that the train should have been manned by more than one engineer, who was away from the train on a break at the time of the derailment.

"We'll be able to accept claims when the time is right — any time from now forward — for people's losses. We recognize our responsibility for all of this." 

— Talking about the office his company will set up in Lac-Mégantic to handle people's concerns and claims for compensation.

"You always think of something you could have done that you didn't do, but were you unreasonable in how you ran your business up to that point?  I think not in this case. I think we were following industry practice."

— Responding to a question about whether he feels any guilt about the incident.