Police investigating possibility of criminality in Woss rail disaster
Published Friday, April 21, 2017 10:22AM PDT
Last Updated Friday, April 21, 2017 6:52PM PDT
Police say they are looking for evidence of an intentional criminal act or the presence of criminal negligence after a train derailed on north Vancouver Island on Thursday.
Two workers died at the scene and a third died in hospital overnight. Two others remain in hospital.
A train carrying Western Forest Products personnel and material derailed around 8:45 a.m. in Woss, a hamlet about 130 kilometres north of Campbell River.
RCMP were in Woss throughout the day Friday investigating the scene that stretches at least two kilometres.
Officers say it’s still early in the investigation, but they are working to determine if there is the presence of criminal negligence.
“If we determine ultimately that there is criminality we will retain the lead in that investigation,” said RCMP Island District senior investigator Dave Hall. “If we believe it’s related to some other non-criminal incident we’ll turn that over to the correct authorities.”
The derailment has devastated the tight-knit community of just under 200 people.
The safety director with United Steel Workers Local 1-1937 says the workers are all long-term employees and some have been with the company for more than 40 years.
“Members are just trying to do what we always do when this happens, is console each other and try and get through it,” Jack Miller said.
According to the safety director, critical incident stress workers travelled to the community on Thursday to help anyone who needed it.
“We’re waiting for the site to be released and then steelworkers, Western Forest Products, WorkSafeBC ... we’ll do a joint investigation and come up with what we have to do to stop it from happening again,” Miller said.
He added that a locomotive was not involved in the derailment.
"I’ve seen most of the site, haven’t talked to the two individuals that were operating the reload as to whether it was the actual line of cars that they were loading that let loose or sometimes there’s loads parked off to the side," Miller said.
A team from Western Forest Products and the company's CEO Don Demens met with families, employees and community members in Woss on Friday.
"Western Forest Products Inc. and United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 will continue to focus efforts on working together to ensure that the families, workers and all affected are supported," Demens said in a press release. "The well-being and safety of our employees and the communities we operate is paramount."
The company closed all Timberlands operations on Friday with respect for employees and their families, Demens added.
Officials say the names of the victims will not be released.
Police have talked with some of those involved in the derailment and ask that anyone with information contact the Sayward RCMP detachment.