Tag Archives: Lac-Megantic Quebec

3 former MMA rail workers acquitted in Lac-Mégantic disaster trial

Repost from CBC News

3 former MMA rail workers acquitted in Lac-Mégantic disaster trial

Locomotive engineer and 2 others found not guilty of criminal negligence causing 47 deaths
Alison Brunette · CBC News · 19 January 2018
Three former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic railway employees were acquitted in the July 6, 2013, train derailment that destroyed parts of downtown Lac-Mégantic, Que., killing 47 people. (CBC)

Jurors have acquitted the three former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) railway employees charged with criminal negligence causing death in the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster.

Locomotive engineer Tom Harding, 56, rail traffic controller Richard Labrie, 59, and operations manager Jean Demaître, 53, were all charged after the derailment of a runaway fuel train early on July 6, 2013. Several tankers, carrying highly volatile crude oil exploded, turning downtown Lac-Mégantic into an inferno and killing 47 people.​

There was an audible gasp in the courtroom when the verdict was delivered early Friday afternoon.

Labrie couldn’t hold back tears as he described his relief. He said that his thoughts are with the community of Lac-Mégantic.

“I would like to say the people of Lac-Mégantic, what they went through, they showed a huge amount of courage,” he said.

“I wasn’t intending to cry. But I can tell you it was difficult — it was a long process.”

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Just informed people at this coffee shop of the verdicts. There was an explosion of joy and clapping.  Justin Hayward @CBC_Hayward 

The eight men and four women on the jury have been deliberating since Thursday morning, Jan. 11, at the Sherbrooke, Que., courthouse, after a marathon trial which began last September.

The jurors have endured countless hours of technical testimony from train experts, heard dramatic audio recordings of emergency workers and railway employees from the night of the explosions, and listened to other former MMA employees called as Crown witnesses describe a work environment with little regard for safety standards and no budget for training.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Gaétan Dumas thanked the jury members for their work, telling them that the case wasn’t easy.​

“You are the most enthusiastic jury I have ever seen,” he said.

Former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic locomotive engineer Thomas Harding leaves the court during a break in the trial in September. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Last, ill-fated journey

Harding, who pitched in on the night of the disaster, helping emergency responders detach the fuel cars that hadn’t exploded, was the driver of the ill-fated fuel train.

He picked up the 73-tanker car train in Farnham, Que., 60 kilometres southeast of Montreal, on the afternoon of July 5, 2013.

Late that evening, he left the train idling on the tracks in the village of Nantes, 13 kilometres west of Lac-Mégantic, where it was to be picked up by an American crew the following day.

During the three-month trial, the court heard how a fire broke out in the smokestack of that locomotive shortly after Harding left it unattended.

Firefighters arrived and extinguished the fire, shutting down the locomotive’s engine and breakers, which disabled the air brakes that were securing the train. Jurors heard that less than an hour later, the runaway train barrelled down the tracks, derailing in downtown Lac-Mégantic. The resulting explosions engulfed the town in flames.

Several of the Crown’s 31 witnesses described Harding as an experienced, knowledgeable and helpful co-worker, which the Crown alluded to in closing arguments.

“Despite all comments on Harding, on July 5, he failed to do his job,” prosecutor Sacha Blais told the jury.

“A careful engineer would have foreseen the danger.”

Much of the Crown’s testimony revolved around the seven handbrakes Harding applied to the train, whether the engineer tested them and how many would have been sufficient to secure the train properly.

In closing arguments, Harding’s lawyer, Charles Shearson, countered that the engineer followed the MMA’s general operating instructions.

Shearson listed a number of other factors that contributed to the derailment, including the safety of one-man crews and MMA’s failure to conduct a risk assessment on the consequences of parking a heavy fuel train on a slope at Nantes. The Transportation Safety Board’s report identified the rail line between Nantes and Lac-Mégantic as the second steepest grade of any stretch of track in Canada.

Jean Demaître, the ex-MMA operations manager was charged with criminal negligence. Richard Labrie, far right, is a former MMA rail traffic controller faced the same charge. (Alison Brunette/CBC)

Accused waived right to mount defence

Harding, as well as the other two accused, waived their right to mount a formal defence to the charges.

Labrie, the rail traffic controller on duty that night, was on shift 200 kilometres away in Farnham, relying on information being provided to him by telephone, his lawyer, Guy Poupart, reminded the jury in closing arguments.

Poupart said the Crown failed to “demonstrate in any way that a rail traffic controller placed in the same position as Labrie and given the same information, would have acted any differently.”

Demaître, MMA’s senior manager in Quebec, was at home near Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and on call on the night of the disaster. The Crown argued he had been negligent, ignoring complaints about the lead locomotive’s mechanical defects.

“A supervisor should have ensured all safety,” Blais concluded.

Demaitre’s lawyer, Gaétan Bourassa, urged the jurors to distinguish between his client’s actions and those of his former employer.

“This is the trial of Jean Demaître, not the trial of MMA through Jean Demaître,” Bourassa said in his closing arguments.

“There is a tremendous difference.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alison Brunette is a reporter for CBC Quebec in Sherbrooke, in Quebec’s Eastern Townships.
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Gogama fire chief asks for more than DOT-111 tanker phase out

Repost from CBC News, Sudbury
[Editor: Significant quotes: “This week, the federal [Canadian] government announced DOT-111 rail cars will be phased out sooner than expected.” …and “Marc Garneau, the federal transport minister, said by 2025 no flammable liquids will be permitted to be transported by rail car.”  – RS]

Gogama fire chief asks for more than DOT-111 tanker phase out

Tankers that carried crude oil in recent derailments will be phased out or scrapped by 2025
Martha Dillman & Casey Stranges, CBC News Jul 27, 2016 8:57 AM ET
By 2025, flammable goods will no longer be permitted to be transported across the Canada.
By 2025, flammable goods will no longer be permitted to be transported across the Canada. (Nati Harnik/Associated Press)

This week, the federal government announced DOT-111 rail cars will be phased out sooner than expected.

DOT-111 rail cars were involved in the deadly rail disaster in Lac-Megantic, Quebec three years ago.

A similar model of rail cars transported crude oil in derailments near the northern Ontario community of Gogama — including two last year that spilled more than 100,000 litres of crude oil.

Although he was critical of CN and their handling of local derailments, Gogama fire chief Mike Benson said he believes rail companies and the federal government want to make it safer to transport goods.

“The financial aspect is what’s holding everything back here,” Benson said, “but certainly, CN recognizes that it’s in their best interest not to have derailments. The federal government certainly understands that.”

In March, Benson said that CN was keeping his people from seeing the derailment site during its investigation, which bred mistrust in the community.

And considering that his community has seen two derailments in a short period, Benson said that phasing out the rail cars is a step in the right direction, but other aspects of rail transportation need to be considered.

“I think the infrastructure, the [rail] track system, the maintenance that they’re doing on the track system, and I think they really have to look at the speeds when [the trains are] going through municipalities,” Benson said.

Marc Garneau, the federal transport minister, said by 2025 no flammable liquids will be permitted to be transported by rail car.

Garneau said about 28,000 DOT-111 railcars are still in use, travelling between Canada and the United States. He said the cars may be upgraded, used to transport other goods or sold to be scrapped.

Trains coming from the U.S. will be monitored to ensure they comply with the new rules.

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CANADA: DOT-111 tank cars can’t transport crude oil as of Nov. 1

Repost from Sudbury.com

Garneau confirms DOT-111 cars will not be able to transport crude oil as of November 1

By Canadian Press, Jul 26, 2016 8:26 AM
pmc101352009
Candian Transport Minister Marc Garneau

MONTREAL — Canada will put a stop to the transport of crude oil by older and less crash-resistant tanker rail cars earlier than scheduled, Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced Monday, however, the timeline for ending similar transportation of all other flammable liquids remains the same.

As of Nov. 1, crude oil in Canada will no longer be transported in DOT-111 tankers — the same kind of rail car that was involved in the Lac-Megantic tragedy in which 47 people died three years ago.

The DOT-111 cars without thermal layers of protection were scheduled to be phased out for the use of crude oil by the previous Conservative government by May 2017.

DOT-111s with thermal protection were to be taken off for oil transport by March 2018.

The new directives are for crude oil only, Garneau said, adding the phase-out deadline for DOT-111s carrying other flammable liquids is 2025.

Garneau said while he was able to accelerate the phase-out of DOT-111s for crude, the government needs to be “realistic” about other materials.

“The reality is that in this country we transport a huge amount by rail — hundreds of billions of dollars worth a year — and you can’t do everything in one shot,” he told a news conference.

“Here we have the opportunity to do something very concrete on the crude oil side — which is extremely important — and I am very proud of it.”

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said in its report on the Lac-Megantic crash that until older and less crash-resistant tanker cars “are no longer used to transport flammable liquids and a more robust tank car standard with enhanced protection is set for North America, the risk will remain.”

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre saluted Garneau’s announcement, saying “when we talk about (rail) safety we have to show it, we have to walk the talk.”

Vicki Balance with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said the oil industry knew the Liberals were considering making changes but didn’t know what they were going to be.

“(The announcement) brings some certainty and predictability for us, which is positive,” she said.

On July 6, 2013, a runaway freight train pulling 72 crude-oil laden DOT-111s derailed and exploded, killing 47 people and destroying part of downtown Lac-Megantic.

In response, the U.S. and Canada created a series of new regulations to make rail transport of hazardous materials safer.

Former Transport Minister Lisa Raitt and her U.S. counterpart Anthony Foxx in May 2015 announced new regulations for tanker cars made after Oct. 1 of that year, for transporting liquid dangerous goods across the continent.

The new cars, known as TC-177s in Canada, are made of thicker steel than the DOT-111s and have other added safety measures.

Raitt and Fox also announced that all DOT-111s would have to retrofitted or phased out for the use of crude oil by 2018 and all other rail cars transporting any dangerous, flammable liquid would have to meet new safety requirements by 2025.

Garneau said Monday the new rules will only apply to Canada.

He said no DOT-111 train originating from the U.S. and carrying crude oil will be able to cross into Canada after Nov. 1, and violators will face financial penalties, but he didn’t say how much they would be.

Garneau said there are about 30,000 DOT-111s without a thermal layer transporting crude oil on railways in North America. He didn’t have a precise number for the cars with the protective layer.

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