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Lack of training led to fatal White Pass train derailment: report

A White Pass and Yukon Route train that crashed in northern British Columbia in 2006 was overloaded by train workers who had no formal training, investigators with the federal Transportation Safety Board have concluded.

A White Pass and Yukon Route train that crashed in northern British Columbia in 2006 was overloaded by train workers who had no formal training, investigators with the federal Transportation Safety Board have concluded.

The federal board released its report Thursday into the Sept. 3, 2006, train crash that killed White Pass employee Bruce Harder, 45, of Carcross, Yukon. Three other workers were seriously injured.

The report says the work train left Log Cabin, B.C., around 1 p.m. PT that day, carrying eight cars loaded with gravel. After cresting a hill near Bennett, B.C., the train became a runaway and derailed on a curve.

"The train was too heavy. Each car was overloaded and too many cars were placed in the train," Terry Toporowski, the Transportation Safety Board's lead investigator on the case, told reporters in Whitehorse on Thursday.

"It is also likely that the ballast car's brakes were operating at a diminished capacity."

By the time the runaway train derailed, it had reached a speed of about 72 km/h, Toporowski said.

The conductor jumped out of the train and landed in a small stream, the TSB report stated. The locomotive engineer and two heavy equipment operators — one of them Harder — were trapped inside the cab.

No regulations on load size: Toporowski

The locomotive engineer, the other heavy equipment operator and the conductor were taken to hospital for treatment that afternoon. Harder's body was extracted from the nose of the locomotive that night.

Toporowski said the workers who had loaded the train had never been properly trained.

"Through the years, they learned from the guys they worked with. There was no regulations on how many cars they could take, so if they could handle four cars, it's OK, if they could handle six cars, it's OK," he said.

"There was no guidelines on how to load them, so they took what they thought was safe because that's how they were educated. There was no rules in place to prevent them from doing what they did."

Transport Canada said safety procedures that White Pass has implemented since the accident should enhance safety for its workers and passengers, according to the TSB report.

The railway, based in Skagway, Alaska, carries about 500,000 passengers every summer on scenic tours through Alaska, the Yukon and northern B.C.

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