Posted on July 10, 2013 at 1:48 pm by Associated Press
LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec (AP) — The head of a railway company whose train crashed into a Quebec town, killing at least 15 people, blamed the accident on an employee who he said had failed to properly set the brakes.
Edward Burkhardt, president and CEO of the railway’s parent company, Rail World Inc., made his comments Wednesday during his first visit to the town where some 60 people remain missing following Saturday’s fiery crash.
“It was questionable whether hand brakes were put in place at this time,” Burkhardt said. “I don’t think any employees removed brakes. They failed to set the brakes.”
He said a train engineer has been suspended without pay.
“I think he did something wrong. It’s hard to explain why someone didn’t do something. We think he applied some hand brakes but the question is did he apply enough of them,” Burkhardt explained. “He said he applied 11 hand brakes we think that’s not true. Initially we believed him but now we don’t.”
Burkhardt, who arrived with a police escort and was heckled by angry residents, said that he had stayed in Chicago to deal with the crisis in his office, where he was better able to communicate with insurers and officials in different places during what he described as 20-hour work days.
The railway boss promised an energetic response to the humanitarian crisis.
At a press conference, shortly before Burkhardt was due to arrive in Lac-Megantic, Quebec Premier Pauline Marois faulted the company’s response in the wake of the disaster.
“We have realized there are serious gaps from the railway company from not having been there and not communicating with the public,” Marois said.
She also announced a $60-million fund to help victims in Lac-Megantic and to rebuild the town.
Quebec police inspector Michel Forget said they were pursuing