Criminal probe launched into Lac-Megantic oil train crash as death toll hits 15

More than 30 people are still missing in Quebec town after huge explosion caused by runaway oil train crash

Canadian police have opened a criminal investigation into the runaway oil train crash in a small Quebec town as the death toll climbs to 15, with dozens more people still missing.

Police say more bodies could be buried in the burned-out ruins.

Quebec police inspector Michel Forget said that investigators have "discovered elements" that have led to a criminal probe in the small town of Lac-Megantic.

He didn't go into detail but ruled out terrorism, saying police are more likely to explore the possibility of criminal negligence. Provincial police spokesman Sergeant Benoit Richard said no arrests have been made.

The death toll rose again with the discovery of two more bodies on Tuesday, and 35 people are still missing. The bodies that have been recovered were burned so badly they have yet to be identified.

Investigators are focusing on whether a fire on the train a few hours before the disaster set off a chain of events that resulted in the explosion, raising questions about the safety of transporting oil by rail instead of pipeline.

The unmanned Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train broke loose early on Saturday and sped downhill in the darkness nearly seven miles before jumping the tracks at 63 mph. All but one of the 73 cars were carrying oil. At least five exploded.

The local Transportation Safety Board said there had been no warning of the runaway train because staff had been unaware of it. Warning systems are not in place on secondary rail lines, said TSB manager Ed Belkaloul.

The derailment and explosions destroyed about 30 buildings, including a crowded bar, and forced about a third of the town's 6,000 residents from their homes.

The same train had caught fire hours earlier in a nearby town, and the engine was shut down - standard operating procedure dictated by the train's owners, Nantes Fire Chief Patrick Lambert said.

Edward Burkhardt, president of the railway's US-based parent company, Rail World, suggested that shutting off the locomotive to put out the fire might have disabled the brakes.

"An hour or so after the locomotive was shut down, the train rolled away," he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Transportation Safety Board investigator Donald Ross said the locomotive's black box has been recovered but warned that the investigation was still in its early stages.

Efforts are continuing to stop waves of crude oil spilled in the disaster from reaching the St Lawrence River, which supplies water to the province.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Support Engineer

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Support Engi...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence