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Conductor's heroism cited in gov't report
Published: May 29th 2009
Source: By Andy Ivens, The Province
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CN slammed for taking braking locos off run

In the frantic minutes before he died, Tom Dodd heroically scampered across a flatbed rail car loaded with lumber to try to save the lives of fellow crew members on a runaway train.

Moments later, the car Dodd was on went flying off the tracks on the Kelly Lake hill 43 kilometres north of Lillooet, tumbling 300 metres down the steep incline.

"I'm very proud of him," Tom's brother Barry Dodd said yesterday, as the Transportation Safety Board of Canada's report into the June 29, 2006, incident was published.

Tom Dodd, 55, the conductor, and trainman Don Faulkner, 59, both died in the derailment.

Two miles down the hill from where the flatbed car derailed, the locomotive went off the rails with Faulkner and engineer Gordon Rhodes outside the cab looking in vain for a place to safely jump off.

But the locomotive was by then hurtling down the 2.2-per-cent grade at about 100 kilometres per hour.

It rolled almost 100 metres down the hill and burst into flames. Rhodes suffered serious injuries but survived.

Barry Dodd said his courageous brother was trying right to the bitter end to use the hand brake at the back of the flatbed car to slow it.

"The thing didn't have any brakes and it went off the track," Dodd told The Province.

The report slammed CN Rail, which took over B.C. Rail in July 2004.

When BCR ran trains on the mountainous route, they used locomotives with dynamic braking (DB) -- which engage the engine to exert torque on the drive wheels in the opposite direction to which the train is going.

But three months before the fatal incident, CN Rail decided to take the engines with dynamic brakes off the run in favour of smaller locomotives equipped only with air brakes.

"In this situation, no consideration was given to the need for supplemental DBs for the safe descent of mountain grades and there was no formal risk assessment performed before removing DB-equipped locomotives from this territory," said the TSB report.

The report said the DB brakes "would have been sufficient to maintain the speed at the 20 m.p.h. limit without any use of the train air brakes or the locomotive independent brake, significantly reducing the risk of loss of control."

The report recommended CN "take effective action to identify and mitigate risks to safety."

John Holliday, of the Teamsters local that represents CN employees in B.C., said CN managers could be held criminally responsible.

"We're going to talk with our lawyers about having CN charged," under a law that holds a supervisor accountable for on-the-job safety, said Holliday.

CN now uses dynamic brakes on the route.

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