Hinton, AB Head On Train Collisioin, Feb 1986
HUMAN ERROR CAUSE OF CANADA WRECK.
RESCUERS HUNT FOR 29 DEAD.
Hinton, Alberta (AP) -- Using bulldozers and cranes, rescuers searched for bodies in the smoking wreckage of a head on train collision in which 29 people were feared dead. Two railway officials said human error could be responsible for the rail crash, Canads's worst in 38 years.
A mile-long Canadian National freight train carrying grain and pipe ran a caution signal and a red light, then barreled through a closed switch before colliding Saturday with a nine-car Via Rail passenger train, said ROSS WALKER, Canadian National's senior vice president for western Canada.
At the crash site, 150 miles west of Edmonton, Alberta, in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, Royal Canadian Mounted Police removed two unidentified bodies from the burned, mangled rail coaches on Sunday as heavy equipment operators tried to separate the debris.
The names of 93 known survivors were released by the Mounted Police later in the day, but identities of the two bodies and at least 27 others missing and presumed dead were withheld pending notification of next of kin.
One dead passenger was found in the burned diner car, and the body of a train crew member from the passenger train was found in the engine room, said DR. DERRICK POUNDER, deputy chief medical examiner for northern Alberta.
Still missing were another 21 of at least 98 passengers, another four members of the seven member Canadian National crew on the Via train and two of the three crew members on the freight train, POUNDER said.
"These numbers are fairly firm," he said.
Asked whether human error was the most likely cause of the wreck, ALEX RENNIE of Canadian National told reporters in Hinton, "It's starting to look like that."
WALKER, the Canadian National vice-president, told an Edmonton news conference that the freight train was on the wrong track and had run through a red stop signal and a closed switch.
The collision occurred about 265 feet west of a section of double track and on a single track.
"He (the freight train engineer) left the double track when he should not have left the double track," WALKER said. "There are only two possibilities that explain that happening. One is a signal malfunction, the other is a human error."
WALKER said a dispatcher in Edmonton posted red and yellow signals for the westbound freight about 18 miles east of Hinton, indicating the engineer should prepare to stop the train.
Three miles from where the smashup occurred, three red lights were on, showing the switch at the siding on which the train was moving had been closed, according to the dispatch center records.
But moving in a 50-mph zone for freights and a 70-mph zone for passenger trains, the Canadian National train tore through the switch and collided with the Via train around a curve, WALKLER said.
"There was nothing wrong with the track or track structure," he said, "nothing wrong with any equipment on either train."
Three surviving passengers were treated overnight at Hinton Hospital and were released Sunday, while three others remained hospitalized in Edmonton early today, POUNDER said.
All the survivors were Canadians except FRANK GRIESEL of Eugene, Ore., and STEVEN DAY of Surrey, England.
Chronicle Telegram Elyria Ohio 1986-02-09