LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec (AP) — Following is a timeline of events leading up to the fiery weekend explosion of a runaway oil train that smashed into this small lakeside Canadian town, killing at least 15 people, leaving dozens missing and incinerating much of its downtown.
— Friday, July 5 — 11:25 p.m. EDT
The train, carrying some 100,000 liters of crude oil, is parked in the village of Nantes, about six miles (10 kilometers) from Lac-Megantic, by the train engineer, who had just finished his shift. The engineer departs, leaving the train unattended.
— 11:30 p.m. EDT
A resident in Nantes calls 911 to report a fire in the parked train.
Firefighters and an employee of the train operator, Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, arrive on the scene. Firefighters douse the blaze and the train engine is shut down. Canada’s Transportation Safety Board at a news conference on Tuesday did not say who shut down the engine or who was last inside the train, key points because the train operator says the shutdown may have led to the release of the train’s air brakes. On Wednesday, the railway company chief says an employee failed to properly set the train brakes.
— Saturday, July 6 – 12:56 a.m. EDT
After firefighters depart, the train starts to move. It begins rolling down a slope away from Nantes and toward Lac-Megantic. The train picks up considerable speed.
— 1:15 a.m. EDT
The first explosion is reported as the train derails in Lac-Megantic. The locomotive detaches and continues through town for about a kilometer. Residents report a series of explosions, with fireballs shooting into the sky over the next several hours and a wall of flames that destroys the downtown, including a bar filled with patrons, the library, and a waterside park, along with dozens of other buildings.
Source: Transportation Safety Board of Canada.
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