'Anything can happen': Guernsey, Sask. residents want answers after 2nd derailment

About 80 people in the village of Guernsey, Sask. were forced from their homes after a train carrying crude oil crashed on Feb. 6. The evacuation order was lifted on Feb. 7 at 4 p.m. CST.

Evacuees allowed to return home as of 4 p.m. CST Friday

Maria Pavelich was forced to leaver her home in Guernsey, Sask. The small community was evacuated following a train derailment on Feb. 6, 2020. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

Following a fiery train derailment, Maria Pavelich waited anxiously in a hotel room for news of when she could go back to Guernsey, Sask.

On Thursday, Pavelich and around 80 other people were forced from their homes in the hamlet after a CP Rail train carrying crude oil derailed and caught on fire.

Thick, black smoke poured into the air, making it impossible to stay in the area.

Smoke billows a day after a CP train derailed near the community of Guernsey, Sask. (Alicia Bridges/CBC)

Sitting in a hotel room in the nearby town of Lanigan on Friday morning, Pavelich said she was worried about her property and the pets she had to leave behind — she was also afraid of what the future may bring.

This is the second CP Rail derailment in close proximity in two months and she wants reassurance that it won't happen again.

"It's always going to be a worry," said Pavelich. 

"You're watching to make sure [trains are] going to stay on the track. That's crazy."

Drone footage submitted by Philippe Gaudet shows the fiery aftermath of train derailment near Guernsey, Sask.

3 years ago
Duration 0:34
There have been no reports of injuries after a train derailed near a Saskatchewan hamlet. Emergency response says 12 of the 31 cars that derailed are on fire.

Evacuees return home

On Friday, evacuees were notified that they could return home at 4 p.m. CST.

It's still not clear what caused the train to leave the track and crash. Investigators from the Transportation Safety Board have arrived. CP says crews are working with adjacent landowners as they clean up and restore the area.

On Thursday, federal Minister of Transportation Marc Garneau announced a slowdown for all trains across the country carrying dangerous goods.

The order, which will take effect Friday, Feb. 7 at midnight, will require trains travelling through metropolitan areas to limit their speed to a maximum of 32 km/h, and 40 km/h everywhere else.

(CP Rail)

However, Pavelich isn't convinced a nationwide slowdown is the answer.

"Anything can happen," she said. 

"It could be something wrong with the the railroad itself, it could be the wheels freezing. It could be a stone on the track."

Reeve Jack Gibney (left) speaks with people at an evacuation centre in Lanigan, Sask. Friday morning. (Albert Couillard/CBC)

The fact that two trains have derailed in the area — the first crashed on Dec. 9, 2019 — has the local rumour mill churning. Speculation regarding improper rail maintenance, frozen wheels and even sabotage are floating out in the air.

Pavelich says it would be helpful to have more information.

Maria Pavelich sits in her hotel room in Lanigan, Sask. She wants to know why two trains derailed near her village in the last two months. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

"The less we know, the more our imaginations take over," she said.

Trains begin running again 

Reeve Jack Gibney said while everyone in the village found a place to stay, either with family or in a hotel, the news that people could return home brought widespread relief. 

"They were all clapping their hands and ready to go home," Gibney said, noting the pizza lunch CP Rail bought for evacuees helped spirits, too.

"We had a good response," he said. "CP has been with us all day to answer to all of these frustrations with the residents and I think it's made a world of difference."

On Friday evening, CP Rail said the fire at the site had been fully contained and the rail line was re-opened.

Gibney noted that any costs associated with the derailment would be funnelled through Guernsey's RM office and sent as one claim to CP Rail.

"They're making it right for us," he said.

-with files from CBC's Alicia Bridges


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