On July 6, 2013, shortly before 1:00 am, a Montreal, Maine &
Atlantic Railway freight train which was parked for the night on a
hill seven miles above Lac Megantic, Quebec started to roll. The
unit train carrying approximately 48,000 barrels of crude oil
produced from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota in 78 DOT Class
III tank cars reached a speed of 65 mph and 63 of the tank cars
derailed in the centre of the Town, spilling approximately 37,000
barrels of crude oil and causing fires and explosions which
destroyed 40 buildings, 53 vehicles and killed 47 people, many of
whom were relaxing in bars and restaurants in Lac Megantic's
scenic downtown on a warm summer evening.
On August 19, 2014, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada
(TSB) released its 181 page report of its
investigation of the tragedy. The TSB, like the National
Transportation Safety Board in the united States, investigates
transportation safety. It is not a function of the TSB to assign
fault or determine civil or criminal liability.
The TSB found that the accident in Lac Megantic was due to 18 human
and mechanical causes, including improper application of the brakes
on the parked train, ineffective training and oversight by the rail
company and poor regulatory oversight by Transport Canada. In its
investigation, the TSB considered the volatility and flammability
of the crude oil cargo, including how it was characterized,
documented and handled for the purpose of transportation of
dangerous goods laws.
Some public commentary after the disaster suggested that as some
Bakken crude oil was produced through the hydraulic fracturing of
wells, that hydraulic fracturing fluids in the crude oil in the
tank cars contributed to the scope of the disaster.
The TSB considered this possibility but dismissed it. The TSB said
after examining the properties of the crude oil that: "There
was no indication that the crude oil's properties had been
affected by contamination from fracturing process fluid
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Canada is a constitutional monarchy, a parliamentary democracy and a federation comprised of ten provinces and three territories. Canada's judiciary is independent of the legislative and executive branches of Government.
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