In the early morning hours of 6 July 2013 a train parked outside Lac Megantic QC and laden with crude oil began rolling towards the town and derailed in a massive conflagration that claimed 47 lives and devastated the small community.
In the aftermath, three employees of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway – Locomotive engineer Tom Harding, 56, rail traffic controller Richard Labrie, 59, and operations manager Jean Demaître, 53 – were charged with criminal negligence causing death. On 19 January 2018, after nine days of deliberations, a jury returned not guilty verdicts for all three men.
Crown prosecutor Jasmine Guillaume told the CBC that she respects the jury’s decision and that her thoughts are with the victims’ families. “We respect the decision of the jury, although it was not the verdict we were looking for,” she said. The Crown has thirty days to appeal.
The verdict is, perhaps surprisingly, supported by the people of Lac Megantic.
Minister of Transport Marc Garneau issued a statement following the verdict; a few days later a further statement was issued committing “a substantial sum” to the construction of a rail bypass for Lac Megantic.