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50 killed in Quebec train derailment remembered

LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec -- Church bells tolled 50 times in a small Quebec town Saturday in memory of the 50 people who died after a horrific oil train derailment a week ago.

The chimes at Ste-Agnes Church rang at midday, followed by a minute of silence in the picturesque lakeside town devastated by the runaway train.

Authorities said they have now recovered the remains of 33 people; 17 others are missing and presumed dead.

When the clock struck 1:14 a.m. Saturday morning, it marked one week to the minute that a locomotive and 72 tankers carrying shale oil slammed into downtown Lac-Megantic after rolling down a slope and gathering speed.

The crash and ensuing explosions destroyed homes, businesses, and the Musi-Cafe bar that was filled with people.

The unattended Montreal, Maine and Atlantic train had been parked overnight a few miles away.

The first victim to be identified by the coroner's office earlier this week was Eliane Parenteau, 93. Officials planned to release the identities of seven more victims last night and one more Monday.

Transportation workers moved carefully Friday in and around the site of the derailment searching for evidence that would help explain what led to the massive destruction.

The search for remains continued to be slowed by dangerous conditions -- this time it was benzene fumes from the contaminated soil, which forced officials to try to ventilate the area.

"I keep coming back to the Musi-Cafe because I have two children in their 20s and they could have easily been at a bar like that," said Wendy Tadros, chairwoman of Canada's Transportation Safety Board. "I'm sorry I cannot do more to relieve your grief."

It will be months or longer before investigators will be able to draw any conclusions about what happened, Tadros said. Investigators plan to produce a 3-D model through laser scanning of images being collected at the scene of the disaster.

Edward Burkhardt, president and chief executive of U.S.-based Rail World Inc., which owns the runaway train, has blamed the engineer for failing to set the brakes on the train, which came from North Dakota.

Burkhardt said the engineer had been suspended without pay and was under "police control."

Burkhardt did not name the engineer, though the company had previously identified the employee as Tom Harding of Quebec. Harding has not spoken publicly since the crash.

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