BURLINGTON, Ont. – Two of the three Via Rail engineers killed Sunday when their passenger train lurched off the tracks were experienced drivers, each with more than 30 years of industry experience, the company said today as investigators worked to figure out what went wrong.
Peter Snarr, 52, and Ken Simmonds, 56, both of Toronto, were veteran locomotive engineers with decades of experience with CN and Via, and were at the train’s controls when the crash occurred Sunday afternoon, the company said.
A third engineer, Patrick Robinson, 40, of Cornwall, Ont., was also killed in the crash. Robinson was in the cab and observing the other two “as part of his familiarization program” when the accident happened in Burlington, west of Toronto.
“This is a truly heart-rending situation for all of us at Via,” chief executive officer Marc Laliberte said in a statement.
“We immediately began to investigate the accident in order to determine the cause or causes, and will continue until we find out what went wrong, and have put in place measures to prevent any such recurrence.”
Via spokeswoman Michelle Lamarche said the train’s black box has been recovered and is being examined by the Transportation Safety Board. The ministry of transportation and CN, which owns the track, are also on the scene.
Board officials said the train was in the process of changing tracks when it derailed.
Train 92 was carrying 75 passengers from Niagara Falls, Ont., when it left the tracks around 3:30 p.m. on Sunday in Burlington – about 100 metres from where a freight train derailed some four years ago.
The locomotive and one passenger car flipped onto their sides and crashed into a small building next to the tracks. Another two passenger cars were forced off the rails and came to rest in an L-shape.
The three engineers who died were riding in the cab of the locomotive.
In all, 45 were admitted to hospitals to be treated for injuries ranging from minor to a broken leg, a back injury and a heart attack.
All but nine have already been released.
Via said trains will continue to be detoured or replaced by chartered bus service on the Toronto-Niagara Falls and Toronto-London-Windsor routes.
Go commuter trains were unable to service the Aldershot station for the Monday morning rush as a result of the crash and were being re-routed through Burlington. Aldershot remained closed until further notice, with a bus shuttle service operating in both directions.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty offered condolences to the families of the victims.
“It’s going to be very important, of course, that we work together with the federal government now to pursue whatever inquiries, investigations are necessary to ensure we better understand what exactly happened here so we can take steps to ensure it’s not repeated,” McGuinty said.
“I’m very confident that (GO trains) are safe. Heroic steps have been taken this morning to ensure that the lines are available for passenger use.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also stressed the importance of learning from the tragedy.
“As time goes by and we learn what happened, we will work to make sure that Ontarians can travel safely in our province.”