Halifax-Montreal-bound VIA derails; seven in hospital with minor injuries
SAINT-CHARLES-DE-BELLECHASSE, Que. (CP) — Federal accident investigators picked through the debris Thursday of a Via Rail passenger train that jumped the tracks, clipped a house and plowed through a two-car garage.
A huge grey locomotive sat planted where two cars had been parked and which are now little more than a tangle of squashed scrap metal.
Snow was pushed up in front of the engine’s tilted nose and smashed wooden boards and roofing were plastered around the massive machine.
No one was injured in the house but Elizabeth Huart, a spokeswoman for Via Rail, said late Thursday afternoon that five passengers and two members of the train crew had been treated in hospital for minor injuries and released.
“Mainly cuts and bruises,” Huart said, adding that one person was also treated for shock.
Rose-Anne Cameron, who lives in the house, thought she had been caught in an earthquake.
“I was getting ready to make a coffee when everything started to shake in the house,” she told RadioCanada, the French-language net- work of the CBC.
“I heard the mirrors breaking, the dishes breaking, the electricity went out.
“ When everything stopped, I opened the door and looked outside and I saw the engine that had run into the garage.”
She said she avoided death or serious injury because her dog dallied when she took him out first thing in the morning.
If he’d been five minutes quicker, she would have been following her normal morning routine getting ready in the bathroom, which was destroyed by the train’s passage.
Many of the 120 passengers were asleep when the Halifax-toMontreal train suddenly began to vibrate before derailing at about 4:45 a.m. ET near the community of St-Charles-de-Bellechasse, Que.
Seven cars — five passenger cars and two locomotives — left the track. One engine toppled onto its side, leaving a pool of diesel fuel. The other cars remained upright near the tracks although they leaned slightly in the heavy, swirling snow.
Passenger Carole Ouellet was in the first passenger car when the incident occurred.
“There was an uproar which lasted 30 seconds but it felt like 10 minutes,” said Ouellet, who regularly takes the train between Montreal and Rimouski.
“ When the accident happened, there were literally people flying around in the car,” she told Quebec City Le Soleil. “It’s a miracle that nobody was injured seriously.”
She said many people cried out after the accident but emergency crews responded quickly.
Firefighters and a crew from a company specializing in cleaning up environmental waste cleared up the mess, which firefighters said did not pose a hazard to area residents.
Their work was, however, slowed slightly by poor weather.
Via Rail said the train left Halifax at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday and was heading to Montreal. It has 10 crew members.
Buses were brought in to transport passengers to Montreal and Drummondville. Huart said all the passengers made their connections, with about 20 people heading to Toronto and others heading to Ottawa, among the destinations.
Huart said the cause of the derailment has not been determined.
A locomotive sits in the remains of a shed and a porch in the backyard of a home in St-Charles-de-Bellechasse, Que., Thursday. The Via Rail train carrying about 120 passengers and 10 crew derailed early Thursday. Seven passengers suffered minor injuries in the derailment.