Category Archives: Derailment

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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Oil Train Safety Rules Getting Rolled Back By Trump Adminstration

Repost from KUOW Public Radio, Seattle, WA

Oil Train Safety Rules Getting Rolled Back By Trump Adminstration

By Courtney Flatt, December 6, 2017
<p>Crews subdued the fire from the oil train derailment in Mosier, Oregon, by the morning of Saturday, June 4, 2016. Cleanup on the oil spill and charred rail cars continued into the weekend.</p>
Crews subdued the fire from the oil train derailment in Mosier, Oregon, by the morning of Saturday, June 4, 2016. Cleanup on the oil spill and charred rail cars continued into the weekend. Photo: EMILY SCHWING

The Trump administration is rolling back a requirement for trains carrying highly explosive liquids — like the oil trains that run through the Columbia River Gorge en route to Northwest refineries.

The 2015 rule was supposed to make these hazardous trains more safe, following a number of derailments. But that was under President Obama, Now, President Trump’s Department of Transportation says railroads with trains carrying highly flammable liquids will not have to update their braking systems.

“The costs of this mandate would exceed three-fold the benefits it would produce,” the DOT said in a statement — that’s according to studies by the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board and the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Obama-era regulations required railroad companies to install electronically controlled pneumatic brakes by 2021. Those new systems were supposed to help prevent fiery crashes, like last year’s derailment in Mosier, Oregon. ECP brakes are supposed to brake faster because they signal instantaneously throughout the train.

The current industry-standard air brake technology has been in use for more than a century and had been involved in the deadly Lac Megantic derailment in 2013.

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley criticized the decision.

“Oil trains are rolling explosion hazards, and as we’ve seen all too many times—and all too recently in Mosier—it’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ oil train derailments will occur. Degrading oil train safety requirements is a huge step backward and one that puts our land, homes, and lives at risk,” Merkley said in a statement.

Industry groups applauded the decision. Chet Thompson, president and CEO of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, called the rollback a “rational decision.”

“While we support the use of improved safety technologies, (electronically controlled pneumatic) isn’t an improvement on other technologies currently in use, and would have imposed substantial costs to shippers,” Thompson said in a news release.

Conservation groups in the Northwest said the rollback was frustrating, but unsurprising. Dan Serres is the conservation director with Columbia Riverkeeper.

“We’re definitely frustrated that the Trump administration is weakening standards that are not strong enough to begin with,” Serres said. “We saw that with the Moiser derailment, potentially if there was a better braking system in place, we wouldn’t have seen so many cars come off the tracks.”

Serres said his group is now more committed to stopping oil terminal construction in the Northwest, if the federal government isn’t “holding the rail industry’s feet to the fire to improve the safety of these shipments.”

 

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Sturgeon County Canada: neighborhoods evacuated after train carrying crude oil derails

Repost from CBC News

Sturgeon County neighbourhoods evacuated after train carrying crude oil derails

12 cars overturned on the railway in Sturgeon County northwest of Edmonton
CBC News, Oct 22, 2017 9:32 PM MT
RCMP asked residents in River’s Edge and Noroncal to evacuate their homes as a precaution after a train derailed Sunday afternoon.
RCMP asked residents in River’s Edge and Noroncal to evacuate their homes as a precaution after a train derailed Sunday afternoon. (Teri Gosselin)

Residents of two neighbourhoods in Sturgeon County, Alta., were allowed to return home Sunday evening after their homes were evacuated in the aftermath of a train derailment Sunday afternoon, county officials say.

At about 1:45 p.m., 12 cars overturned on the railway northwest of Edmonton.

The rail cars were carrying crude oil and two of them leaked, releasing about 30 to 50 litres, said Sheila Moore, communications officer for Sturgeon County.

Those leaks have been stopped, CN spokesperson Patrick Waldron said in a statement Sunday evening.

‘Pretty unsettling’

A resident of River’s Edge Place, Teri Gosselin, heard the clatter Sunday she described as the “craziest noise” she’d ever heard.

“Just the loudest kind of metal-on-metal noise you could ever imagine,” she told CBC News.

“Pretty unsettling.”

Gosselin ​and one of her roommates went to check out what happened, when a CN crew member told them to step back because there was hazardous material on the ground.

“You couldn’t quite smell the oil but you could see the sheen of oil or some sort of fuel on the cars,” she said. “Train parts everywhere.”

No danger detected

Residents were given the green light to return home after CN personnel assessed the area and determined there was no apparent danger, Moore said.

RCMP had asked residents in the River’s Edge and Noroncal neighbourhoods to evacuate as a precaution, although police didn’t believe there was a danger to the public, Const. Kathleen Sossen told CBC News.

The evacuation affected approximately 46 homes in the Sturgeon Valley area.

Sturgeon County officials say it will take a couple of days to clean up after a CN train derailed Sunday afternoon. (Teri Gosselin)

The county had set up a reception centre at Namao Hall on Hwy 37 for evacuees.

No injuries or property damage have been reported, Moore said.

Waldron said the company has activated its emergency response plan and environmental teams are on scene to start cleaning up.

“We continue to work alongside local emergency responders,” Waldron said. The cause of the incident is under investigation, he said.

Moore said the county expected clean up efforts to continue over the next couple of days.

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