Tue, July 5, 2005 Disaster averted as train goes off track Freighter had just dropped off fuel By SEAN MEAGHER, Ottawa Sun Emergency personnel look over wheels scattered throughout the area of a freight train derailment in Prescott yesterday. (Photo: Errol McGihon, Sun) PRESCOTT -- A train derailment of about 50 empty fuel cars yesterday afternoon resulted in no injuries or spills but left a mess on a main CN rail line. The cause is still under investigation and there was no damage estimate last night but cleanup at the site is expected to last several days until the tracks are restored to normal service. The CN train was returning from the Ultramar terminal in Maitland just west of Prescott after unloading diesel fuel. "It's a good thing those cars were empty," said Victor Zerowski, a resident at the Claxton Terrace apartment complex where he witnessed the crash from his third-floor balcony overlooking the tracks. "I heard a screeching noise and the next thing I knew a wheel came off, then another and then another," said Zerowski, adding that the train's wheels almost immediately ripped off from the cars as they sped by. "The wheels were being sliced off the cars. It was almost as if there was an obstruction (on the tracks)," he said. Another resident at Claxton Terrace, Howie Countryman, was sitting outside on his second-floor balcony where he also witnessed the crash. "When he went by, I said to my wife he was going to jump the tracks and the next thing I know, there he goes," said Countryman, whose wife Sharon also saw the derailment. 'EXTRA FAST' "He was going extra fast from what he usually goes by here," he added. The tracks, which intersect the Edward St. overpass, attracted many curious onlookers wanting to get a closer peek at the crash site. "I didn't hear a thing when it happened," said Theresa Shanahan, who lives next to the overpass, about 50 feet from the tracks. "I was inside with my air conditioning on. I never heard anything," she said. Rudy Bekkedam was in his backyard working at the time and only noticed something had happened when there was a cloud of dust in the air over the tracks. "It's weird, but I didn't hear any noise of a crash," said Bekkedam who lives just off Duke St., within about 30 feet of the tracks. CN spokesman Mark Hallman said the train was heading eastbound being pulled by two locomotives at about 4:30 p.m. He said the locomotives and the first car were the only parts of the train that stayed upright. The other 50 cars tipped southward. Prescott residents say there had been maintenance on the tracks over the past two weeks, which could give investigators some insight as to what caused the derailment.