Police say a train derailment in the tiny community of Woss on northern Vancouver Island killed two people and injured three others on Thursday.
Dave Rushton, the community's regional elected representative, said the cause of the accident is under investigation but early reports indicate a crew was on the tracks when the rail cars approached without warning.
A RCMP news release says two people didn't survive, while three others have been transported to hospital with undetermined injuries.
Cpl. Tammy Douglas says they received a report of the derailment around 8:45 a.m. Thursday and numerous first responders attended the scene.
She says it took a significant effort by rescue crews to deal with those who were trapped in the derailment.
At the section of track where the accident occurred, the rail cars are not connected to train engines, Rushton said in an interview. The area is a transfer zone where the loaded rail cars pass through before being connected to locomotives and moved to sawmills elsewhere, he said.
"Somehow the cars got away and ran down the track, and, of course, it's downhill," said Rushton, a director of the Regional District of Mount Waddington. "It's all gravity feed. They ended up right in behind our community here. It's amazing there wasn't more damage done."
Rushton said a backhoe loader, a speeder car and the workers were on the track when the accident occurred. A speeder car is a rail vehicle used to transport workers on rail tracks.
The train is operated by Western Forest Products, one of the area's major employers.
Don Demens, the company's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement Western Forest Products is co-operating with authorities in the investigation of the derailment.
In a second statement, Demens said the company is offering its condolences to the families, friends and co-workers of the victims.
"The safety and security of our staff and the communities where we work are paramount," he said. "Our hearts and minds are with them."
The company took over the historic forestry rail route in 2006. Construction of the 90-kilometre rail line started in 1917 and is now known as the Englewood Railway of Western Forest Products. It is the only remaining log transport railway on Vancouver Island.
Woss, located about 75 kilometres southeast of Port McNeill, has about 200 residents.
Rushton said everybody is aware of the accident and knows the victims. He said he originally feared his grandson was one of the injured because he was scheduled to be part of the rail crew, but his duties where shifted before the accident.
"We've got a couple hundred people here," Rushton said. "Everybody's in shock. We went for a long time without a lost time accident here. And now this."
Douglas said the derailment is being investigated by the BC Coroners Service, the Transportation Safety Board and Worksafe BC.