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Data recorder recovered from Burlington train crash that killed three; Too early to know cause, officials say

Officials recovered the data recorder Monday from a train that crashed into a building west of Toronto, killing three engineers, but they said it was too early to speculate on the cause of the accident.

The Transportation Safety Board's Tom Griffith said investigators were still looking into the cause of the Via Rail accident, which also injured 45 of the 75 passengers on board Sunday.

The train was traveling from Niagara Falls to Toronto when it left the tracks around 3:30 p.m. near Aldershot station in Burlington.

The site of the accident was only about 100 yards from where a freight train derailed about four years ago.

Via Rail spokeswoman Michelle Lamarche said two victims -- Peter Snarr, 52, and Ken Simmonds, 56 -- were both veteran locomotive engineers with more than 30 years of service with CN and Via. Patrick Robinson, 40, the third engineer, was a new employee who the company said was on the train observing as part of a familiarization program.

Lamarche and Griffith said they haven't ruled out the possibility that Robinson was driving at some point. Lamarche said Robinson was qualified; Griffith said it would have been under strict supervision from the other two locomotive engineers.

The train was changing tracks when it derailed. Weather was not believed to be a factor, as it was clear and dry at the time of the crash. It was not immediately known how fast the train was traveling.

The locomotive crashed on its side into a small building, and at least two passenger rail cars behind it were driven off the tracks into an L-shape. All six cars derailed, a Via official said.

Via Rail said 45 people were admitted to hospitals to be treated for conditions ranging from minor injuries to a broken leg, a back injury and a heart attack. All but nine people had been released from area hospitals.

Deanna Villela of Welland said she felt a slight bump before the train jumped off the tracks, sending people and luggage flying. The crash lasted about 10 seconds but felt like "forever," she said.

"This is a truly heart-rending situation for all of us at Via," Chief Executive Officer Marc Laliberte said.

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