Train conductor played significant role in Lac-Megantic tragedy: Crown

By The Canadian Press
January 3, 2018 - 1:15am

SHERBROOKE, Que. — Train conductor Thomas Harding played a significant role in the deaths of 47 people in the Lac-Megantic tragedy because he didn't sufficiently apply the brakes after parking the oil-laden convoy, the Crown argued Wednesday.

Harding applied only half the required level of brakes and didn't test them to ensure they worked properly before leaving for the night, prosecutor Sacha Blais said in his closing arguments at the trial of Harding and his two co-accused.

In the wee hours of July 6, 2013, a runaway train carrying crude oil from the United States derailed in Lac-Megantic and exploded, killing the 47 and destroying part of the downtown core.

Harding and former colleagues Richard Labrie and Jean Demaitre are each facing one count of criminal negligence causing the death of 47 people. They have all pleaded not guilty.

Blais told the jury of 10 men and four women the derailment and explosion would not have happened if not for Harding's actions.

Rules that needed to be followed were outlined clearly in documents, Blais said.

A train parked on a downward slope requires a certain number of brakes that need to be tested to ensure they are in proper working order, he continued.

"These texts are clear" and not complicated, Blais said. "If Thomas Harding does not do his job safely in Nantes, who will?"

Harding had stopped the train on top of a slope in nearby Nantes before it began moving on its own, barrelling into Lac-Megantic.

Blais also blamed traffic controller Labrie as well as Demaitre, the manager of train operations, saying their responsibilities included taking the necessary steps to avoid injuries and loss of life.

The prosecutor said that, even after firefighters had rushed to the scene of a blaze at the lead locomotive shortly before the tragedy, the Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway did not send anyone to the site to ensure everything was secure.

Blais said Labrie could have done more to make sure the train was adequately immobilized or could have asked Harding to return to the train to inspect the locomotive.

"The person who could check the work of Thomas Harding was him (Labrie)," he said.

The Crown wrapped up its closing arguments Wednesday and will be followed Thursday by lawyers for Labrie and Demaitre.

Harding's lawyer will get his turn Friday and Quebec Superior Court Justice Gaetan Dumas is expected to give his instructions to the jury Monday.


Stephanie Marin, The Canadian Press

In the news today, Jan. 3

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