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Derailed train cars burn in Plaster Rock, N.B., Wednesday, Jan.8, 2014. The Transportation Safety Board says fatigue caused a wheel to fail on a freight train that derailed earlier this year in northern New Brunswick, sparking a fire that burned for days. (Tom Bateman/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Derailed train cars burn in Plaster Rock, N.B., Wednesday, Jan.8, 2014. The Transportation Safety Board says fatigue caused a wheel to fail on a freight train that derailed earlier this year in northern New Brunswick, sparking a fire that burned for days. (Tom Bateman/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Cracked wheel a factor in January train derailment in New Brunswick Add to ...

A broken wheel was a factor in the derailment of a freight train that caught fire earlier this year in northwestern New Brunswick, the Transportation Safety Board said Thursday as it released an update on its investigation.

The CN train was hauling crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas when 19 cars and a locomotive went off the tracks Jan. 7 near the village of Plaster Rock, sparking a fire that burned for days.

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The board said early on that its investigation would centre on a cracked wheel near the front of the 122-car train, which was en route to Moncton from Toronto when it derailed.

Ian Perkins, a senior investigator based in Dorval, Que., said the wheel remains a focal point.

“We know any accident has multiple causes,” he said in an interview. “We know the wheel definitely played a role. To say the wheel equalled the derailment, we’re not at that point yet.”

No one was hurt in the derailment, but 150 people in the surrounding area were forced from their homes as the fire burned.

The board said the wheel, located on the 13th car, was manufactured in 1991 and had a crack under its surface that led to a shattered rim. Mr. Perkins said investigators know the wheel came off the track about 16 kilometres before the other cars derailed.

“From then, that 10-mile period up to where the pileup occurred, there were multiple broken rails and multiple … spots where the base of the rail got battered,” he said.

Mr. Perkins could not say how long the crack had been there, but he said it “was due to a porosity … back during the manufacturing process.”

“It’s not a build defect, it’s a quality control issue,” he said. “In that sense, we haven’t been able to identify if it’s a systemic issue.”

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