Dan Beck was starting his journey to Timmins yesterday when the Polar Bear Express passenger train derailed.
“We were about an hour into the train ride,” he recalled. “I noticed we were going . . . a little faster than normal. And then all of a sudden we felt at least three or four jerks on the car, I guess it felt like a hard stop when something tries to stop because the cars are all connected, like a chain reaction.”
Sitting across from a friend, he said they wondered what was going on.
“Then it just happened to us in like five seconds, we just started tipping all of a sudden. Next thing you know we were on a slant and then pretty much everybody was all panicked and yelling around,” he said.
The Polar Bear Express leaves Moosonee to head to Cochrane at 5 p.m. According to Ontario Northland, the train derailed 24 miles south of Moosonee with 80 passengers and crew on board.
Beck, who was in coach two, said there were about four cars off the tracks, with the box cars still on the rail.
“Some people started opening emergency windows and some of them weren’t accessible because it was on a slant and the left side of the train car was in the air, so they had to kind of walk towards the back of the train to get out through the back door, I guess the conductor was helping people out,” he said.
After the derailment, he shared videos from inside one of the cars and of the scene outside.
He said ONR trucks from Moosonee were sent on the tracks to pick up passengers.
“They ended up putting some of the injured people inside the cab of the vehicles and then they started loading people in the back box of the vehicles,” he said. “It took them about maybe 45 minutes to an hour just to get from Moosonee to the site. I’m not sure how many trips they made, they might have made at least two trips with three trucks.”
From what Beck saw, he said the injuries were people who had bumped their heads and arms on the window.
While he’s still processing what happened, he said ONR staff handled it well.
“It could have been a lot worse,” he said. “A lot of us from the community take that train and I’m pretty sure it runs through our mind once in a while that it feels like it’s going to tip or something, then all of a sudden it actually did happen. Everybody was pretty much in shock, but everything was well co-ordinated.”
At the scene, he said people were given water. When the trucks pulled into Moosonee, there were paramedics, doctors and police waiting.
Ontario Northland says crews will be working to re-rail the cars and repair the infrastructure. The train service is expected to be stopped until June 4.
People who have scheduled travel during the suspension should call 1-800-265-2356.