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Investigation Of Fatal Train Crash Finds No Mechanical Failure

February 18, 1986

JASPER, Alberta (AP) _ No evidence of mechanical failure has been found in the head-on collision between a freight train and a passenger train in which at least 23 people died, an official says.

However, mechanical problems can’t be ruled out until all the evidence is examined, Ted Beamish, Alberta regional director for the Canadian Transport Commission, said Monday.

Beamish and another investigator questioned the three crew members of a westbound freight that used the Canadian National Rail main line Feb. 8 more than three hours before the collision between a CN freight and a Via Rail passenger train near Hinton, 165 miles west of Edmonton.

They also interviewed two members of the crew of an eastbound train which passed the freight involved in the crash while it waited on a siding.

They also plan to question the crew of another eastbound train and Wayne Smith, conductor and only surviving crew member of the ill-fated freight.

″He is the key witness,″ Beamish said. ″We’re interested in talking about their previous trip, their rest, anything that could have taken place prior to coming on duty, radio communication and that sort of thing.″

The fiery collision took place after the freight went through stop lights and a closed switch and thundered into the passenger train on a single track, officials said.

The last of the remains were removed Monday from the burned out hulk of a Via passenger coach 10 miles east of Hinton, a pulp-mill community of 8,900. Three people are still unaccounted for.

Beamish said the crew members of the westbound freight were interviewed because the train had gone ″through the same trackage, the same area, the same signals, and the same possibility of void spots in radio communication. ″

He said there was no evidence the crew had encountered any problems.

Beamish said he will ask for an extension of a few days for his investigation, which was supposed to be completed by Friday. His report will be submitted to the commission in Ottawa and then forwarded to a judicial inquiry which starts next month.

Canadian National Railways has directed all employees to tighten up on safety procedures.

″The recent series of accidents has shaken the confidence of the Canadian people in the safety of our rail transportation system,″ said a memo distributed by CN president Ronald Lawless.

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