TORONTO – Three employees and the railway company involved in last summer’s massive explosion of a runaway oil train that incinerated much of a small town in Quebec, killing 47 people, will face criminal negligence charges, provincial prosecutors announced late Monday.
The charges come about 10 months after more than 60 of the tankers carrying oil from North Dakota came loose in the middle of the night, sped downhill for nearly seven miles and derailed in the town of Lac-Megantic in eastern Quebec. At least five of the tankers exploded, leveling about 30 buildings, including a popular bar that was filled with revelers July 6.
The Quebec provincial prosecutor’s office said 47 counts of criminal negligence have been filed against engineer Thomas Harding, manager of train operations Jean Demaitre, and Richard Labrie, who was in charge of rail circulation, as well as the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway Ltd., the defunct railway at the heart of the disaster. The charges represent one count for each person killed. They are the first criminal charges brought. Criminal negligence that causes death can result in a jail sentence of up to life imprisonment in Canada.
Rene Verret, a spokesman for the prosecutor, said the three railway employees were arrested late Monday afternoon. They are scheduled to appear in court on today in Lac-Megantic.