FIELD, B.C. — The mother of one of three railway employees killed during a train derailment near the British Columbia-Alberta boundary doesn't want anyone else to feel the same kind of pain that her family did.
"I don't want any other family to have to go through what we've gone through. That would be a great blessing if that didn't have to happen again," Pam Fraser said Monday in a phone interview from Calgary.
Fraser's son, Dylan Paradis, was a conductor on the Canadian Pacific freight train that plummeted off a bridge in February 2019. Paradis, engineer Andrew Dockrell and trainee Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmerone were in the lead locomotive and were killed.
Fraser and Dockrell's family have filed lawsuits alleging negligence in the derailment that sent 99 cars and two locomotives tumbling off the tracks.
"Gross negligence is a good word. I think it's an utter lack of respect for human life," Fraser said.
The westbound train was parked on a grade and had its air brakes on when it started rolling on its own, gaining speeds far above the limit for the mountain pass near Field, B.C.
The Transportation Safety Board has said handbrakes were not applied and the train barrelled along for just over three kilometres before it derailed at a curve ahead of a bridge.
The claims filed in B.C. Supreme Court name the rail company, its CEO, board of directors, CP police and the federal minister of transport.
The lawsuits allege the workers weren't provided a safe work environment, CP Rail failed to follow safety procedures and the company's police force should not have been allowed to do the investigation into the crash.
"This story is about the broader culpability of a number of people. I'll put CP Rail aside. They are the epicentre of the problem," said Regina lawyer Tavengwa Runyowa.
"But the even bigger problem is pretty much our federal government, because they created a framework where all of this was possible. This system has existed for decades, many people have died and nothing has happened."
Runyowa said the Railway Safety Act allows private companies to have their own police forces, which emboldens them to concentrating more on profit instead of employee safety.
"It's not just about saying that CP caused these deaths and there were all of these things that were not working properly," Runyowa said. "There's a bigger systemic problem here where we have allowed a whole industry to pretty much regulate itself."
CP Rail responded to the allegations in a statement.
"We continue to reflect on the events of Feb. 4, 2019, and mourn the loss of Dylan Paradis, Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer and Andrew Dockrell. These railroaders will never be forgotten," it reads.
"CP disputes these baseless allegations and will vigorously defend against these claims in court."
No statements of defence have been filed and the allegations have not been proven in court.
Fraser said the lawsuit isn't about the money.
"People need to be held accountable. There has been wrongdoing and changes must, must, must be made," she said.
"The changes need to be made so that profits can no longer be put before people's well-being."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 19, 2021.
— By Bill Graveland in Calgary.
The Canadian Press