The Chicago-based railroad company that operated the train involved in the Lac Megantic disaster has an accident rate much worse than the average for U.S. railroads, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

According to data from the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration, Rail World — which owns the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MMA) railroad that operated the Lac Megantic train — had 23 accidents, injuries or “other reportable mishaps” between 2010 and 2012, the newspaper reported Tuesday.

The railroad company had an incident rate more than twice the U.S. national average in 2012 — 36.1 incidents per million miles traveled, compared to the U.S. average of 14.6 incidents for that year.

The Journal notes that Edward Burkhardt, the founder of Rail World who built an empire out of small, regional railroads, has been criticized for “championing the controversial use of remote-controlled trains in rail yards and one-person crews.” The Lac Megantic train had been left unattended and parked at the time of the disaster, but it was not being remote-controlled.

But Burkhardt said Monday he believes the train’s brakes were tampered with before it began to roll into the town of Lac Megantic in the early hours of Saturday morning, causing a blast that levelled the town centre and left 13 dead and about 40 missing, as of last count.

We have evidence of this,” Burkhardt told the National Post. “But this is an item that needs further investigation. We need to talk to some people we believe to have knowledge of this.”

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  • Firefighters continue to water smoldering rubble Sunday, July 7, 2013 in Lac Megantic, Quebec. A runaway train derailed Saturday igniting tanker cars carrying crude oil.

  • The downtown core lays in ruins as firefighters continue to water smoldering rubble Sunday, July 7, 2013 in Lac Megantic, Quebec. A runaway train derailed Saturday igniting tanker cars carrying crude oil.

  • The remains of tanker cars lie burnt out in the downtown core Sunday, July 7, 2013, in Lac Megantic, Quebec. A runaway train derailed Saturday igniting tanker cars carrying crude oil and devastated the town.

  • The downtown core lays in ruins as firefighters continue to water smoldering rubble Sunday, July 7, 2013 in Lac Megantic, Quebec. A runaway train derailed Saturday igniting tanker cars carrying crude oil.

  • The downtown core lays in ruins as firefighters continue to water smoldering rubble Sunday, July 7, 2013, in Lac Megantic, Quebec. A runaway train derailed Saturday igniting tanker cars carrying crude oil.

  • The downtown core lays in ruins as fire fighters continue to water smouldering rubble Sunday, July 7, 2013 in Lac Megantic, Quebec after a train derailed ignited tanker cars carrying crude oil.

  • The downtown core lays in ruins as firefighters continue to water smoldering rubble Sunday, July 7, 2013, in Lac Megantic, Quebec. A runaway train derailed Saturday igniting tanker cars carrying crude oil.()

  • The downtown core lays in ruins as firefighters continue to water smoldering rubble Sunday, July 7, 2013 in Lac Megantic, Quebec. A runaway train derailed Saturday igniting tanker cars carrying crude oil.

  • The downtown core lays in ruins as fire fighters continue to water smoldering rubble Sunday, July 7, 2013 in Lac Megantic, Quebec after a train derailed ignited tanker cars carrying crude oil.

  • Burnt out oil tank cars and the destroyed downtown core lays in ruins as firefighters continue to water smouldering rubble Sunday, July 7, 2013, in Lac Megantic, Quebec.

  • The downtown core lays in ruins as firefighters continue to water smoldering rubble Sunday, July 7, 2013, in Lac Megantic, Quebec, after a train derailed ignited tanker cars carrying crude oil. The runaway train derailed, causing explosions and fires that destroyed the downtown district.

  • The downtown core lays in ruins as firefighters continue to water smoldering rubble Sunday, July 7, 2013, in Lac Megantic, Quebec, after a train derailed ignited tanker cars carrying crude oil.

  • Burnt out oil tank cars and the destroyed downtown core lays in ruins as firefighters continue to water smouldering rubble Sunday, July 7, 2013, in Lac Megantic, Quebec. A runaway train derailed igniting tanker cars carrying crude oil on Saturday.

  • An aerial view of a fire in the town of Lac-Megantic is seen from a Sûreté du Québec helicopter Saturday, July 6, 2014 following a train derailment the sparked several explosions in Lac Megantic, Quebec.

  • Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac Megantic, Quebec, Canada, Saturday, July 6, 2013.

  • Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac Megantic, Quebec, Canada, Saturday, July 6, 2013.

  • Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac Megantic, Quebec, Canada, Saturday, July 6, 2013.

  • Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac Megantic, Quebec, Canada, Saturday, July 6, 2013.

  • Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac Megantic, Que., Saturday, July 6, 2013.

  • Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac Megantic, Quebec, Canada, Saturday, July 6, 2013.

  • This aerial photo shows a fire in the town of Lac-Megantic as seen from a Sûreté du Québec helicopter Saturday, July 6, 2013 following a train derailment that sparked several explosions in Lac Megantic, Quebec.

  • MORE LAC MEGANTIC PHOTOS

  • A levelled building is seen in the foreground the day after a train derailed causing explosions of railway cars carrying crude oil Sunday, July 7, 2013 in Lac Megantic, Que.

  • Canadian Prime Minister Harper, right, surveys the scene Sunday, July 7, 2013 in Lac Megantic, Quebec, as firefighters continue to spray derailed tanker cars. A runaway train derailed Saturday causing explosions of railway cars carrying crude oil and destroyed part of the downtown area of Lac Megantic.

  • Prime Minister Harper, centre, talks with firefighters Sunday, July 7, 2013 in Lac Megantic, Quebec. A runaway train derailed Saturday exploding tanker cars carrying crude oil and destroying part of the downtown area of Lac Megantic.

  • Prime Minister Stepen Harperwaves to people as he visits the site Sunday, July 7, 2013 in Lac Megantic, Quebec, where a runaway train derailed Saturday. Tanker cars carrying oil exploded after the derailment and destroyed the business district in Lac Megantic.

  • Firefighters keep watering railway cars the day after a train derailed causing explosions of railway cars carrying crude oil Sunday, July 7, 2013 in Lac Megantic, Que.

  • The downtown of Lac Megantic, Que. is seen Sunday, July 7, 2013, the day after a train derailed causing explosions of railway cars carrying crude oil.

  • Burnt buildings are seen following a train derailment causing explosions of railway cars carrying crude oil Sunday, July 7, 2013 in Lac Megantic, Que.

  • Workers inspect a railway car that was part of a convoy of railway cars carrying crude oil that derailed Saturday causing explosions Sunday, July 7, 2013 in Lac Megantic, Que.

  • Workers inspect a railway car that was part of a convoy of railway cars carrying crude oil that derailed Saturday causing explosions Sunday, July 7, 2013 in Lac Megantic, Que.

  • A fire keeps burns after railway cars that were carrying crude oil derailed in downtown Lac Megantic, Quebec, Saturday, July 6, 2013.

  • Firefighters douse a blaze after a freight train loaded with oil derailed in Lac Megantic in Canada's Quebec province on June 6, 2013, sparking explosions that engulfed about 30 buildings in fire. At least one person has been killed.

  • Smoke rises in the background as Quebec Premier Pauline Marois speaks to reporters after a freight train loaded with oil derailed in Lac Megantic in Canada's Quebec province on June 6, 2013, sparking explosions that engulfed about 30 buildings in fire. At least one person has been killed.

  • Residents watch rising smoke after a freight train loaded with oil derailed in Lac Megantic in Canada's Quebec province on June 6, 2013, sparking explosions that engulfed about 30 buildings in fire. At least one person has been killed.

The company had earlier implied that the train was able to roll into town because its air brakes stopped operating after firefighters shut down the locomotive while fighting a fire on the train a few hours before the crash.

The locomotive of the oil train parked at Nantes station was shut down subsequent to the departure of the engineer who had handled the train from Farnham, which may have resulted in the release of air brakes on the locomotive that was holding the train in place,” the company said in a statement Sunday night.

But both the fire department and railroad experts dispute this.

They’re saying the train left because we shut the engine down, which released the [air] brakes,” said Nantes Fire Chief Patrick Lambert, speaking to the National Post on Monday.

There’s a train parked there right now and the engine is stopped. So do I have to go down to Mégantic and evacuate the whole city because that train is going to leave?”

And railroad workers contacted by the Montreal Gazette said the company’s explanation doesn’t make sense. The experts said air brakes should not be used to keep a train at standstill, because they stop operating some time after the engine is shut down.

Rail operators rely on a series of hand brakes to keep a train still, the Gazette reported, and the experts said those hand brakes should have been engaged on the Lac Megantic train.

The Transportation Safety Board is investigating the train crash, and has said it is still in the early stages of its probe.

In an email to the Journal, Burkhardt defended his company’s safety record, saying railroads like his are more prone to accidents because they rely on less-used, less safe railroad tracks than the large main-line operators.

"Up until Saturday, we never had a main-line derailment on our own railroad of any significance," he wrote.