The wreckage and fire after the explosion - 6 Jul 2013 Photographer unknown.
7 July 2013
Train Was Ablaze Hours
Prior to Derailment: Fire Chief
Lake Megantic Quebec - The 73-car locomotive that devastated a wide swath of Lake Megantic had been ablaze in the hours before it careened off its track and exploded, according to fire officials in the lakeside tourist town and the nearby town of Nantes.
Lake Megantic Fire Chief Denis Lauzon and Nantes Fire Chief Patrick Lambert told The Globe and Mail that fire crews had been dispatched to the train around 11:30 p.m. (ET) Friday when it was stopped in Nantes, about 12 kilometres northwest of Lake Megantic, in response to a fire that had broken out on board.
Mr. Lambert described the fire as being confined to the train's locomotive. He said it had been extinguished by midnight and that firefighters believed the scene was secure.
Diane Lavigne, who was visiting her brother-in-law's home in Nantes across the road from the railroad, recalled a loud screeching sound emanating from the tracks between 11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Friday.
It was not immediately clear what role that fire may have played in the crash and subsequent explosions that killed at least five people and possibly scores more in Lake Megantic.
NDP leader Thomas Mulcair flew into Lake Megantic Sunday morning and attended the noon Quebec Provincial Police press conference. Earlier in the morning, he had inspected the Lake Megantic rail lines with a rail expert who volunteered his help.
Asked about the train company's slow response to the derailment, Mr. Mulcair replied: "I think that says it all."
"Your first obligation should be to help out," he said.
"A more active response would have been expected," he later added.
Christophe Journet, a spokesman for the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, said the train had stopped in Nantes for a routine shift change and that the conductor had confirmed the train's brakes and safety system were functional before he left the locomotive for a local hotel.
A replacement crew was slated to tend to the train later in the night. But sometime before 1 a.m. ET Saturday, the train's load of cars, which included tankers carrying petroleum, began rolling downhill toward the lakeside town of about 6,000.
Sophie Cousineau and Justin Giovannetti.
Montreal Maine & Atlantic General Electric B23-7 number 2002 may be the locomotive involved in the derailment - 19 Jul 2009 Photographer unknown.