Final report confirms broken coupler caused fatal Vancouver Island runaway

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Woss, British Columbia
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WOSS, British Columbia — Federal investigators say that a broken coupler and a poorly installed derail device led to the runaway that killed three railroaders on a Vancouver Island logging road in 2017.

On Thursday, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada released its findings following a 19-month investigation into the April 2017 derailment on Western Forest Products’ Englewood Railroad. The findings in the federal investigation largely echoed that of a report by WorkSafeBC earlier this year. 

Because the Englewood was an industrial railroad, it operated under the authority of provincial regulators. However, because of the fatal nature of the 2017 derailment, federal investigators were asked to also look into the incident.

According to both reports, on the morning of April 20, 2017, 11 log cars began to roll downhill out of a reload site near Woss after a coupler on one of the cars broke. The runaway cars struck a derail near the switch to the main line but the device was not properly installed and was ineffective. The cars continued to roll on to the main line for a half-mile when they collided with a maintenance-of-way crew working on the track. Three men were killed in the incident and two men were seriously injured.

According to the TSB report, a failure by the railroad to practice emergency radio protocols also may have contributed to the fatalities. When the log cars began to roll away, the log loading operators tried to radio the railroad dispatcher but were unsuccessful in alerting him immediately. The laborers then got on the main railroad channel to alert others of the runaway. Federal officials found that the laborers should have gotten on the main railroad channel at the start to alert everyone in the area of the runaway.

The TSB report noted that a 2013 safety audit found the railroad was not complying with all rules and regulations. According to that report, 26 “risk findings” were identified during that inspection, including that the railroad was not conducting regular track inspections. A year later, most of those infractions had been corrected.

Western Forest Products shut down the railroad immediately following the incident. In November 2017, Western Forest Products announced it was closing the railroad for good in favor of trucks. In a statement to Trains at the time, company officials cited economic conditions as the primary reason for switching to trucks.

The Englewood Railroad was the last logging railroad in North America.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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