Lac-Megantic train derailment: Criminal probe opened into disaster

Burned out cars and buildings remain near where the train derailed in Lac-Megantic. Photo: CTV/CNN

Officials in a small Quebec town are not convinced that the July 6 train derailment and crash that killed at least 15 people was accidental and will pursue a criminal investigation into the disaster.

While authorities in Lac-Megantic, Quebec don't believe terrorism is at the root of the derailment, after which dozens of people remain missing, they're now treating the disaster site as a crime scene.

"Namely, there are pieces that lead us to believe that there are certain facts that might come to criminal acts," Quebec Provincial Police Capt. Michel Forget said.

The center of Lac-Megantic, a lakefront town of just under 6,000 residents in the southeast corner of Quebec, was devastated by the blast. At least 30 buildings were destroyed by the explosion and resulting inferno.

The city's center remains cordoned off by police tape. The president of Rail World Inc., the parent company of the railway on which the derailment happened, will make his first visit to the scene Wednesday.

"We have responsibility for this incident. We don't have total responsibility but we have partial responsibility," Rail World President/CEO Edward Burkhardt said in remarks broadcast on CTV.

Nine tankers remain sitting near the town's center.

"People here continue to be horrified by the details of this catastrophe and the fact that oil tankers like this are still left unsecured right near their homes," Lac-Megantic bar employee Karine Blanchette said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.