Probe includes testing crude on board to determine why it "created such a fierce fire that night"
LAC-MEGANTIC, Que.—Canada’s independent transportation investigation watchdog says its team on the ground in Lac-Megantic, Que., is wrapping up the on-site operations and will now move into the analysis phase of its probe.
According to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB), the team of 22 investigators working on the probe into the July 6 derailment, explosions and fire that killed an estimated 47 people in the town in southeastern Quebec has completed its examination and documentation of the wreckage and gathered the data it needed from the accident zone.
With the field phase winding down, the TSB says it is moving the investigation to its laboratory in Ottawa for the examination and analysis phase, where the investigators and a team of engineering experts will execute a number of steps in a bid to determine the impact of all the variables involved with the disaster.
“We need to be thorough and it will take months,” investigator-in-charge Donald Ross said in a progress update.
“This investigation remains a top priority for the TSB. As we leave the site, we wish to assure the citizens of Lac-Megantic and all Canadians that the TSB’s key experts will continue to be dedicated to this important investigation.”
Back at the TSB lab, investigators will analyze metallurgical samples, damage records and photographs to determine the crash-worthiness of the tank cars involved in the derailment, examine wreckage and test selected components (brakes, wheel sets) and review 3D images—scanned with the assistance of the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The team will also conduct brake tests on the locomotives involved in the accident, according to the TSB, as well as similar brake tests on tank cars being held in Nantes, Que., where the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MMA) came from prior to the incident.
A theoretical analysis will also be conducted 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 per cent grade as it did in Lac-Megantic.
A reconstruction and simulations will be done to test different hypotheses, and fluid samples, including oil, will be analyzed help investigators “determine why the oil created such a fierce fire that night.”
Data from the locomotive event recorder—also known as a “black box”—will also be reviewed to validate speed and air brake reaction, the TSB says.
The examination and analysis phase is the second of three carried out in any TSB investigation.
The report phase will follow when all analysis is completed.