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CN Engineer Nominated For Bravery Award

BATHURST -- A suspended CN Rail engineer, who risked his life by riding out a runaway train, is up for a bravery award.

Wesley MacDonald, 60, is being considered for one of three national bravery award categories by the Chancellory of Orders and Canadian Decorations in Ottawa, said Danielle Dougall, chief of decorations.

The Canadian decorations advisory committee will recommend to Governor-General Jeanne Sauve within the next few months whether MacDonald is eligible for the Cross of Valor, Star of Courage or the Medal of Bravery.

The committee will base its recommendation on the results of an RCMP investigation, said Dougall.

MacDonald, who has worked for CN Rail since 1945, was the only member of a four-man crew aboard a 30-car train on March 9 when it careened off a curve where a downhill spur line meets CN's main line.

He suffered head bruises when two locomotives and 26 cars left the tracks, spilling 2,000 tons of lead-zinc concentrate.

MacDonald was blowing the train's whistle to warn motorists as it traveled at about 100 kilometres an hour -- several times the spur's allowed running speed -- through two level crossings.

Within days of the derailment, MacDonald began serving a six-month unpaid suspension. The rest of the crew -- a conductor and two brakemen -- also received four-to-six month suspensions.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers is appealing the suspensions.

"With all I've been through these last few months, the thought I'm up for an award brings tears to my eyes," said MacDonald. "I'm so happy."

MacDonald is often awake at night, reliving the15-minute ride. Nightmares of a harrowing journey aboard the train still interrupt his sleep, he said.

MacDonald said he won't easily forget his brush with death or the outcome.

The veteran engineer thought he would get 30 or 40 demerit marks and continue working after the derailment.

"Now, my pension is all messed up and I can only hope for the best," he said. "The sure good news."

Both CN Rail and the Canadian Transport Commission have completed their investigations into the derailment. CN is uncertain whether it will make its report public, while the commission will make its findings known within the next two months.