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Mayor Slams CN Action

By Peter Anawati

BATHURST (Special) -- Bathurst Mayor Doug Williamson has sent an angry letter to CN Rail officials in Moncton, blasting the company for its treatment of an engineer who stayed with a runaway derailed train last March.

Wesley MacDonald, 59, of Bathurst, who almost lost his life in the March 9 crash, was handed a six month suspension without pay by CN shortly after the incident.

The train, carrying ore from Brunswick Mines, derailed at 70 miles per hour on a secondary rail line leading from the mine into Bathurst. After the incident, CN said the train's crew had not followed procedures to ensure the train has sufficient brake pressure.

MacDonald chose to stay with the locomotive to blow the air horn at several level crossings. The engineer suffered a bruised head in the derailment, but no one else was injured.

MacDonald, a 42-year CN veteran, had never received a demerit mark on his record until the incident.

``I believe his record has been a good one and the six-month suspension your company exacted on him was unjust an cruel punishment at a time when his last service years before his retirement are used for his pension when he retires,'' wrote Williamson.

In the letter to Bob Hest, CN's regional manager of public affairs, the mayor said ``how could CN be so crass as to suggest his guilt after he risked his life to stay with the locomotive until it derailed.

``The man is alive! I wonder what would have happened if Wes had been killed in the derailment. You might say this is conjecture but I believe your would have nailed him to the cross as guilty even if he had died.''

Meanwhile, MacDonald is being considered for a bravery award by officials in Ottawa and the United Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers is grieving the suspension.

``I will go on record as being thoroughly disgusted with your (CN's) action and might I add, that you reconsider your decision."