Quebec Oil Train Derailment Sparks Criminal Probe

LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec - Quebec police are pursuing a painstaking, wide-ranging criminal investigation of the inferno ignited by the derailment of a runaway oil train that killed at least 15 people and left dozens missing in the burned-out ruins of a downtown district.

Quebec police inspector Michel Forget ruled out terrorism as a cause, but said that an array of other possibilities remain under investigation, including criminal negligence. Other officials have raised the possibility that the train was tampered with before the crash early Saturday.

"This is an enormous task ahead of us," Forget said. "We're not at the stage of arrests."

Edward Burkhardt, president and CEO of the railway's parent company, Rail World Inc., was headed to Lac-Megantic Wednesday, his first visit to disaster site since the accident. In earlier media interviews, the Illinois-based Burkhardt had said he figured he'd have to wear a bullet-proof vest to the town.

Flanked by reporters at Montreal's Trudeau airport Tuesday evening, Burkhardt suggested firefighters who extinguished an earlier fire on the same train shared some of the blame.

"We have responsibility for this incident. We don't have total responsibility but we have partial responsibility," Burkhardt said in remarks broadcast on CTV.

The heart of the town's central business district is being treated as a crime scene and remained cordoned off by police tape — not only the 30 buildings razed by the fire but also many adjacent blocks.


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