News release

Lac-Mégantic update: On-site operations wrapping up, ongoing investigation remains a top priority

Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, 1 August 2013 — The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is wrapping up its on-site operations at Lac-Mégantic.  The team of investigators has completed their examination and documentation of the wreckage scene and gathered the data they need from the accident site (red zone). Now that the field phase is winding down, the TSB is moving into the examination and analysis phase of this investigation. The investigation is on-going, and while there are no definitive findings to report at this time, there are some important next steps.

Next steps

The investigation team has identified a series of tests to be completed and a number of items to be examined at the TSB laboratory in Ottawa. In the coming months, the investigators and engineering experts will:

  • Analyse metallurgical samples, damage records, and photographs to determine the crashworthiness of the tank cars involved in the derailment;
  • Review 3D images—scanned with the assistance of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board—which have preserved the exact state of a number of damaged tank cars and which will help investigators understand tank car performance during the accident in greater detail;
  • Examine selected wreckage in the laboratory and test selected components (such as brakes, and wheel sets) to help investigators better understand their accident performance;
  • Conduct theoretical analysis to determine the retarding forces required to prevent the unintended movement of a train of this size and weight from rolling down the 1.2% grade;
  • Create simulations and reconstruct events to learn more about the accident sequence (i.e., validate data, test hypotheses, and verify assumptions);
  • Process, analyse and compare numerous fluid samples in order to verify the properties of the petroleum product in these tank cars. This analysis is being carried out to help investigators determine why the oil created such a fierce fire that night;
  • Review data from the locomotive event recorder and validate information, such as speed and air brake reaction. An identical set of locomotives was tested to simulate performance of the locomotives in the occurrence. Event recorders from this simulation will be compared against those from the train involved in the accident;
  • Conduct brake tests on the locomotives from the accident and arrange to conduct similar brake tests on the tank cars being held at Nantes. This will help determine their condition, their reaction, and their performance; and
  • Continue to collect information from both the railway and Transport Canada. This information will be cross-referenced to help investigators validate the data they have collected, and get a clear picture of the way in which this railway was being operated and overseen by the regulator.

Completing these tests, verifying the results and conducting thorough analyses will allow the TSB to piece together exactly what happened and why.

“We need to be thorough and it will take months,” said Donald Ross, TSB’s Investigator-in-Charge. “This investigation remains a top priority for the TSB. As we leave the site, we wish to assure the citizens of
Lac-Mégantic and all Canadians that the TSB’s key experts will continue to be dedicated to this important investigation,” he added.

If at any stage during the investigation the TSB identifies additional safety deficiencies, it will communicate directly with Transport Canada and the industry, and will inform the public. 

Visit the active investigation page for more information about this investigation.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-994-8053