Sherbrooke Quebec - An expert in railway accident investigations has concluded that if double the number of handbrakes had been applied and a brake efficiency test performed when a 74 car fuel train was parked for the night in Nantes, Quebec, the Lake Megantic disaster never would have happened.
"The accident could have been prevented by applying a sufficient number of handbrakes, properly tested, to ensure that the train would have remained in place in compliance with rule 112 and company instructions," concluded Steven Callaghan, the Crown's expert witness, wrapping up his testimony before his cross-examination began Wednesday.
"There you have it."
Callaghan, a native of Sept-Iles, Quebec, was hired by provincial police to help in their investigation in the aftermath of the train disaster.
He spent hours in the witness box, dissecting the report he compiled with data gathered from the black box of the runaway train which derailed and exploded, killing 47 people in the early hours of 6 Jul 2013.
Harding Should Have Applied 14 Handbrakes
On Tuesday, Callaghan described a visual test he performed on the train after it derailed which indicated handbrakes had not been applied to any of the convoy's 73 fuel cars.
He concluded handbrakes had only been applied to the train's five locomotives, a VB car (a converted caboose which houses remote control equipment) and a buffer car, for a total of seven.
Callaghan built on that testimony Wednesday, referring to charts and tables to determine how much weight the handbrakes could hold by using a theoretical calculation.
"Are seven handbrakes a sufficient number of handbrakes to hold the train?" asked Crown prosecutor Sacha Blais.
"No," he answered.
"You would require a handbrake on all of the locomotives, and you would need a total of 14 handbrakes, including locomotives and cars, which is seven more than those that were actually observed."
Callaghan further explained that eleven handbrakes would have been sufficient, had they all been applied to the fuel cars.
Callaghan also testified the black box data indicated no efficiency brake test was ever performed on the train once it was parked with the lead locomotive left idling in Nantes, 12 kilometres up the track from Lake Megantic.
Earlier in the trial, Superior Court Justice Gaetan Dumas and the jury heard that such a test involves manually applying a sufficient number of handbrakes to the train before turning off the air brake system and applying traction to make sure the handbrakes can keep the train in place.
The judge and jurors also heard that such a test is required under established railway regulations.
Callaghan the trial's 27th witness, is now under cross-examination.