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Train Engineer Cleared of Fault In Derailment

BATHURST -- Train engineer Wesley MacDonald is basking in the glow of vindication this week after being cleared of fault in a train derailment that occurred near here March 9.

MacDonald, who served a six month suspension handed down by canadian National Railway, had his 42-year career record returned to perfect standing when an arbitrator ruled at a Canadian transport Commission hearing in Montreal last week MacDonald had been misinformed about the number of cars he had been carrying the day of the mishap. The ruling stated that he should not be held responsible for the derailment.

MacDonald stayed with the train that day as it broke away from Brunswick Mines, apparently because of brake failure, and traveled 14 miles with 30 cars and two locomotives on the tracks reaching a 70-mile-an-hour speed before derailing about four miles from the city. MacDonald escaped the wreck with only a bump on the head.

He has been re-instated all benefits and retroactive backpay that would have been coming to him during his six-month suspension.

``they have nothing against me. I have a clear record,'' an elated MacDonald said yesterday. He retired Nov. 1, but said the suspension will always remain fresh in his mind.

Laurie Sturgeon, who was a conductor on the train, was given a six-mont \h suspension also. Brakemen Bruce Scott of Newcastle and Bob Court of Dalhousie received four-month suspensions. All three belong to the United Transportation Union, whereas MacDonald's grievance was filed by his union, The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. MacDonald said the cases of the UTU members is in arbitration.

Bob Hest, CN's regional manager of public affairs, said MacDonald ``deserves and we wish him a long and healthy retirement'' but added the arbitrator's ruling poses a big problem on how the railway's Uniform Code of Operating Rules will be administered in the future.

``The arbitrator ruled the discipline was inappropriate. That's going to make a lot of people think that if they make a mistake they'll be able to get away with it,'' Hest said.

The arbitrator in a labor grievance is not necessarily bound by UCOR standards, Hest said, which creates confusion on who is responsible when UCOR rulings are breached.