Skip to main content

Dozens of tanker cars similar to the model used for the train that crashed in Lac-Megantic, Que., are parked on Monday, July 16, on the train's line near Farnham, Que.Les Perreaux/The Globe and Mail

The search for human remains has come to an end in Lac-Mégantic, Que., as investigators probing the causes of the deadly train disaster said they are focusing on the "abnormal" intensity with which the load of crude oil ignited and burned.

Nearly four weeks after the disaster, the estimated death toll stands at 47 — with 42 bodies found, and five people missing.

Police say that number could still change, even if the search at the crime scene is over.

The coroner's office says it has identified 38 of the bodies and will work to identify the rest.

A spokeswoman says she sincerely believes that forensic workers did "everything humanly possible" to find and identify victims.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has also announced today that it is wrapping up its on-site operations in the devastated town.

Investigators told a news conference that they have completed their on-site examination in the Quebec town, following last month's deadly, fiery derailment of a train carrying crude oil.

Meanwhile, federal investigators confirmed Thursday that the derailment nearly a month ago created fires and explosions that were unusually strong,

"We've heard from a number of experts who confirm that the crude oil acted in a way that was abnormal," said Ed Belkaloul, the head of the Quebec region for the Transportation Safety Board.

The light crude oil being transported by a train belonging to the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway originated from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. Pipeline operator Enbridge has complained to American regulators about the volatility of the crude oil originating from that area.

"We are aware of those experiences and have sent investigators to North Dakota, we are following the oil from the wellhead to here," said Donald Ross, the head federal investigator in Lac-Mégantic.

Samples of the oil have been taken and are being analyzed to determine why the crude oil burned with such vigour.

While the investigation into the deadly derailment is expected to last for several more months, the TSB pulled most of its personel out of Lac-Mégantic on Thursday. Work will continue from the federal agency's office in Ottawa.

According to the Quebec provincial police, 47 people were killed when the oil train belonging to the MM&A derailed early July 6. A large swath of the picturesque village's downtown was destroyed by a wall of flaming crude oil.

With files from the Canadian Press

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe