Police: 24 bodies now found in Quebec train crash

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 11, 2013 at 6:06 pm •  Published: July 11, 2013
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LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec (AP) — The first victim of a runaway oil train's explosive derailment in a Quebec town was identified Thursday, more than five days since the disaster, which left behind a scorched scene so dangerous that it slowed the search for 50 people presumed dead.

Quebec's premier toured the traumatized town and sharply criticized the U.S. railway's chief for not responding in person more quickly to Canada's worst railway disaster in nearly 150 years.

Police said four more bodies had been found, bringing the total found to 24.

The first victim to be identified by the coroner's office was 93-year-old Eliane Parenteau, who lived in the disaster zone in downtown Lac-Megantic. Those who knew her described her as being active for her age.

The devastated downtown remained dangerous for days after the crash as responders put out fires and struggled to keep the remaining oil tankers cool so they wouldn't explode. The hazardous conditions delayed the search for the missing — and now for bodies.

Officials also have warned that identifications would be made more difficult by the incinerated scene.

Conditions had at least improved enough for nearly all the 2,000 residents forced to evacuate after the crash — a third of the population— to return home, the town's mayor said.

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois arrived in town and renewed her criticism of Edward Burkhardt, president and CEO of U.S.-based Rail World Inc., which owns the runaway train.

"The leader of this company should have been there from the beginning," Marois said at a news conference.

Burkhardt arrived in town for the first time Wednesday with a police escort, facing jeers from residents.

Burkhardt has said he delayed his visit to deal with the crisis from his Chicago office, saying he was better able to communicate from there.

"I understand the extreme anger," he said. "We owe an abject apology to the people in this town."