Skip to comments.Lac-Mégantic train disaster leads to charges against MMA Railway and three employees
Posted on 05/13/2014 6:20:41 AM PDT by thackney
Lac-Mégantic train disaster leads to charges against Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway and three employees
Nearly one year after a runaway train killed 47 people in the Eastern Townships community of Lac-Mégantic, Que., prosecutors have laid criminal negligence charges against the railway and three employees connected to the disaster, including the trains lone engineer.
On Monday, a spokesman for Quebecs director of criminal and penal prosecutions said 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death had been filed against engineer Thomas Harding, manager of train operations Jean Demaitre, railway traffic controller Richard Labrie, as well as the Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway Ltd., the now-defunct railway at the centre of the disaster.
The trio were arrested by the Sûreté du Québec on Monday afternoon and are set to be charged Tuesday in a Lac-Mégantic courtroom, said Jean Pascal Boucher.
Rene Verret, a spokesman for the Crown, said prosecutors had hoped to announce the charges earlier, but had a number of steps to go through before making a formal announcement late Monday evening.
We had to do so much today we had to get warrants for three people and for the company and then we had to find these people, Mr. Verret said. And of course we had to also inform the families in Lac-Megantic and the person in charge there.
On July 6, 2013, a 72-car train carrying volatile crude oil ploughed into the centre of Lac-Mégantic after rolling downhill for more than 12 kilometres.
An explosion set off by the derailment flattened 40 buildings, killed 47 people and spilled millions of litres of crude oil into the town and nearby lake and river.
Witnesses to the aftermath, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, would describe the scene as being akin to a war zone.
(Excerpt) Read more at news.nationalpost.com ...
Charges brought in Quebec railway disaster
Thomas Walsh, Hardings lawyer, said his client will plead not guilty. Walsh said he had written prosecutors several times asking that Harding to be allowed to turn himself if he was charged. Instead, Walsh said Harding was arrested by a SWAT team that swooped through his home and into his backyard, where he was working on his boat with a son and a friend as he was preparing to watch a Montreal Canadiens playoff game. Police made all three drop to the ground.
It was a complete piece of theatre that was totally unnecessary, Walsh told The Associated Press. I realize that this has been a huge disaster, but this is not necessary for justice to be done. Whatever his legal responsibility may ultimately be this is not an easy thing to live with in the first place.
Prosecutors said in a statement that they decided to file the charges after an analysis of the evidence gathered at the scene. Verret said prosecutors had hoped to announce the charges earlier, but they had to find and arrest those charged as well as inform the families of the victims.
The railroad blamed the engineer for failing to set enough brakes, allowing the train to begin rolling toward the lakeside town of 6,000.
MM&A Railway faces charges in Lac-Mégantic disaster
Bankrupt railroad about to be sold
The arrests came just days before the closing of the sale of the bankrupt railroad.
The $15.85 million sale of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway is expected to close on Thursday in the U.S., but there could be a delay of a few days on a parallel proceeding in Canada. Most of the proceeds will be used to repay creditors.
Eventually, there will be a settlement fund to compensate victims and repay cleanup costs.
The total environmental cleanup alone could end up costing between $200 million and $500 million based on early estimates, and there’s only $25 million in insurance payouts available for wrongful death, personal injury, property damage, fire suppression and environmental impact.
The railroad’s buyer, a subsidiary of New York-based Fortress Investment Group, is changing the railroad’s name to Central Maine and Quebec Railway. The company said it hopes to recapture lost business but has no plans to try to bring back oil shipments. .
Verret said prosecutors had hoped to announce the charges earlier, but said they had to find and arrest those charged as well as inform the families of the victims in Lac-Mégantic.