A driverless oil train operated by short line Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway rolled out of control down a hill Saturday morning, jumped the tracks and blew up in a fiery explosion that wiped out the center of a small town in Quebec, leaving five confirmed dead and 40 people missing, according to news report from Canada.
Officials say most of the missing may never be recovered.
The company had parked the train, consisting of five locomotives and 72 cars full of crude oil, about eight miles from the town of Lac-Megantic. When the brakes somehow released the train began to roll, picking up speed along the way until it crashed into the town, located near the Maine and Vermont border, according to Reuters
The train was carrying crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken Field and was transferred from the Canadian Pacific Railway to the MM&A to move it further east.
One possible explanation for the accident is that all the locomotives were shut down for the night instead of leaving one on to keep the brakes active, MM&A Railway CEO Ed Burkhardt told the Toronto Star
. He suggested the train was tampered with and investigators are treating the incident as a possible crime.
Canadian transportation safety officials are on the scene trying to determine the cause of the devastating accident, which is expected to touch off calls for the use of positive train control technology in Canada
. - Eric Kulisch