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New charges in Lac-Megantic derailment

Charges were laid by Transport Canada and Environment Canada for alleged violations of the Railway Safety Act and the Fisheries Act.
June 22, 2015
By Allan Woods

Several key actors employed by the railway company behind the 2013 train disaster in Lac-M├ęgantic, Que., are facing new criminal charges in relation to the crash that killed 47 people.

Montreal, Maine and Atlantic rail company president and chief executive Robert Gindrod, a handful of managers and the train’s engineer, Tom Harding, could be facing stiff fines or jail terms for alleged violations of the Rail Safety Act and the Fisheries Act. The charges involve individuals in Maine, where the now-defunct company was headquartered, as well as in Quebec.

The incident occurred after a 72-car train carrying millions of litres of combustible crude oil was parked and left unattended at about 11 p.m. on July 5, 2013, just hours before the crash occurred.

An investigation by the Transportation Safety Board revealed that one of the locomotive’s engines caught fire after the train was parked for a staff shift change. Firefighters who responded to the blaze shut down the locomotive’s engine, which resulted in the release of pressure from the air-braking system.

Crucially, an insufficient number of handbrakes were applied to prevent the train from rolling down a decline under its own weight. The train reached speeds of over100 km/h when it barrelled into town just after 1 a.m. on July 6, derailed and exploded.

The Rail Safety Act charges relate to the alleged failure of the individuals and company to set the necessary number of handbrakes and to then perform a test to ensure that the train was unable to move.

Transport Canada said in a statement that MMA and six employees are all facing the two charges.

In addition to Gindrod and Harding, the charged former employees are: Lynne Labonte, general manager of transportation; Kenneth Strout, director of operating practices; Jean Demaitre, manager of train operations; and Mike Horan, assistant transportation director.

The company, which declared bankruptcy and was sold last year, could be fined up to $1 million on each charge. The employees are facing fines on each of the two charges of up to $50,000 or six months in jail.

The Fisheries Act charges relate to the crude oil and other substances that leaked into the nearby lake and the Chaudiere River, contaminating the water and killing fish.

Environment Canada did not immediately provide information on who was facing charges under the Fisheries Act or the penalties they could face.