Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Three people, rail company face charges in deadly Lac-Megantic railway disaster

MONTREAL - Three people will appear in court later Tuesday in Lac-Megantic, Que., to face charges of criminal negligence causing death stemming from one of the deadliest rail disasters in Canadian history.

The Crown announced late Monday that Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway Ltd. and three employees of the insolvent railway will each face 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death.

The arrests of the three men by Quebec provincial police and the charges against them and the company come some 10 months after the tragic derailment killed 47 people.

Thomas Harding, Jean Demaitre and Richard Labrie, all former employees, are expected to go before a judge on Tuesday in Lac-Megantic, where a runaway train hauling tanker cars loaded with volatile crude oil broke loose and barrelled into the town in the early morning hours of July 6.

The derailment triggered an explosion and fire which destroyed part of the tiny Quebec community's downtown.
The three men were tracked down at undisclosed locations. Prosecutor Rene Verret, a Crown spokesman, said the arrests took place without incident. All three were held in detention awaiting their arraignment, scheduled for 2 p.m.

All three held varying roles with the railway.

"Mr. Harding was the driver, Mr. Labrie was the railway traffic controller and Mr. Demaitre was the manager of train operations," Verret told The Canadian Press late Monday.

A message left at the offices of the railway company was not immediately returned.

Criminal negligence causing death carries a maximum life sentence, Verret noted.

In late March, a Crown spokesman said the province's director of criminal and penal prosecutions had begun a review of the file.
Verret said prosecutors decided to file these charges after an analysis of the police evidence.

But they might not be the only ones charged. The Crown is still examining the file.

"Nothing is closed," Verret said. "Today, we are able to bring charges against these individuals."
Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt issued a brief statement on behalf of the federal government in which she thanked Quebec provincial police for their investigation.

"I understand that this is difficult for those affected by the tragic incident in Lac Megantic," she said, adding there would be no further comment as the case is before the courts.
The MM&A railway company is in the process of being sold. In January, bankruptcy judges in Quebec and Maine approved the sale of the insolvent railway to Railroad Acquisition Holdings LLC, an affiliate of New York-based Fortress Investment Group, for US$14.25 million. The deal has not yet closed.
The deadly crash has raised questions about the transport of hazardous goods through towns in both Canada and the United States. The tragedy has also spurred several changes to procedure and policy.
Train service in Lac-Megantic was restored in December. Some of the region's biggest employers depend heavily on the railroad to transport goods.
The MMA, which operates about 770 kilometres of track in Maine, Vermont and Quebec, agreed not to transport dangerous goods through the town.

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/national/Three+people+rail+company+face+charges+deadly+LacMegantic/9833550/story.html#ixzz31aLGH3BR
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