LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec —
He had just said goodbye to friends at the Musi-Cafe and left. "A half-minute later and I wouldn't be talking to you right now," he said.
"There are those who ran fast and those who made the right decision. Those who fooled around trying to start their cars to leave the area, there are probably some who burned in them," Fluet said. "And some who weren't fast enough to escape the river of fire that ran down to the lake, they were roasted."
The same train caught fire hours earlier in a nearby town, and the engine was shut down — standard operating procedure dictated by the train's owners, Nantes Fire Chief Patrick Lambert said.
Edward Burkhardt, president and CEO of the railway's U.S.-based parent company, Rail World Inc., suggested that shutting off the locomotive to put out the fire might have disabled the brakes.
"An hour or so after the locomotive was shut down, the train rolled away," he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
Lambert defended the fire department. "The people from MMA told us, 'That's great — the train is secure, there's no more fire, there's nothing anymore, there's no more danger,'" Lambert said. "We were given our leave, and we left."
Burkhardt was expected to visit the town on Wednesday. The train's engineer, Tom Harding, has not commented publicly on the incident.
Transport Canada, the government's transportation agency, said Tuesday there are no rules against leaving an unlocked, unmanned, running locomotive and its flammable cargo on a main rail line uphill from a populated area. Officials also said there is no limit on how many oil-filled, single-hull tank cars a train can pull.