Mother of man who died in northern Manitoba train derailment speaks out
Supplied photo of Kevin Anderson.
The mother of the man who died following a train derailment in northern Manitoba last month is speaking out about the emergency response to the crash while two crew members were trapped, waiting for help.
Hours after the train plunged into the creek near Ponton, Man. Sept. 15, its 59-year-old engineer and 38-year-old conductor Kevin Anderson were alive.
Anderson's family said in an interview with CTV News Saturday his legs were pinned and he had a broken hip, but after the train went off the tracks he remained calm, was talking and stayed confident that help was on its way.
New photos given to CTV News, taken by Jackie Gogal show a hand outside one of the locomotives and several close up angles of the wreckage.
Leeper said Gogal is the wife of the helicopter pilot who called 911 and took the photos around 5:30 p.m.
She said photos of emergency responders in vehicles at night were also taken by Gogal around 8:30 p.m.
Anderson's mother Debbie Leeper said in the hours after the derailment, she too was reassured her son would emerge alive, but that changed with an early morning phone call with the hospital in Thompson.
"I called back and she said only one passenger is in the ambulance. And it wasn't my son," said an emotional Leeper.
The Transportation Safety of Board of Canada said the train was travelling 40 km/h when it hit a washout on the Hudson Bay Railway, which runs between The Pas and Churchill.
Leeper said she initially believed her son died on impact until another call from a prospector in the area, who told her he heard the crash around 3:30 p.m. and helped bring the helicopter and its pilot to the site.
But Manitoba RCMP said the crash was reported around 5:45 p.m., with officers arriving around 7 p.m. and spending five hours with the trapped men until emergency responders showed up before midnight with a rail truck and equipment to begin rescue operations.
The Mounties said on Oct. 2 the train had been carrying liquid petroleum gas, which was a significant hazard for all first responders.
Responding to questions over concerns that first responders may have been told to wait before beginning the rescue, CTV News was told in an email Friday from RCMP that was inaccurate.
"Thompson Fire and Emergency Services arrived, immediately ensured the area was safe, and began lifesaving operations. The emergency crew had to use a rail truck to get to the location with their equipment. RCMP remained with the trapped individuals until those responders arrived," said spokesperson Tara Seel in an email Oct. 26.
RCMP said Anderson died close to 1 a.m. on Sept. 16.
Leeper said with emergency responders just 12 kilometres away and in 2018, she doesn't know why her son died close to nine hours after the crash
"To think your son is alive expecting help to come, I mean why wouldn't you think help was coming," Leeper said.
"In this day and age most people would not die of a broken hip if you have medical assistance."
Arctic Gateway Group, which owns the railway tells CTV News it had an emergency measures plan that was followed and RCMP and the Thompson Fire Department were in control of the site.
The TSB said its investigation is ongoing. A spokesperson told CTV News its investigation covers all aspects of the incident.
The rail workers union has asked Manitoba's Chief Medical Examiner to conduct a coroner's inquest.
"Why was it okay for two RCMP officers and four civilians to be on scene but paramedics and fire fighters were not allowed in," said Roland Hackl with Teamsters Canada Rail Conference.
Leeper said her son used to the prospector's phone to call home, but she missed the call, and before dying he asked to pass along the message he loved his family very much.
CTV News reached out Thompson Fire and Emergency Services Saturday. They said its chief was out of town and could be reached Monday.
TRAIN RUNNING AGAIN
Arctic Gateway Group said trains are running on the line again.
“VIA Rail resumed its services on October 24 between Winnipeg and Gillam, following confirmation from the infrastructure owner that the track was safe for passenger train operations,” said a VIA Rail spokesperson in an email to CTV News.
“Services remain suspended between Gillam and Churchill, Manitoba. Services on this segment will be restored as soon as the infrastructure is determined to be safe for passenger service.”
“VIA Rail continues to inform local communities as the situation evolves. We are in contact with customers who have a reservation for travelling on affected trains.”