Lac-Mégantic disaster trial jury to deliberate for ninth consecutive day

Alicia Farmer
January 21, 2018

Dumas sent them back into deliberations, with the clarifications that they did not have to reach a verdict on all three, saying they could deliver a verdict on one or two of the accused.

Former engineer Tom Harding, 56, rail traffic controller Richard Labrie, 59, and operations manager Jean Demaitre, 53, each faced one count of criminal negligence causing the death of 47 people.

Harding was also found not guilty of risky operation of railway equipment and of unsafe operation of railway equipment causing death.

After the acquittal, Labrie told media and he was quoted by CBC News: "I would like to say the people of Lac-Mégantic, what they went through, they showed a huge amount of courage".

"Those are the ones we always felt were more appropriate for the situation and those are the accusations of non-conformity with the rules, something we have always admitted". All three pleaded not guilty.

Dumas is discussing the matter with lawyers before addressing the jury.

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The prosecution argued that Harding played a significant role in the accident because he didn't apply a sufficient number of brakes or test them to ensure they worked properly after leaving the train for the night in nearby Nantes, Quebec.

It resulted in fire and explosion of multiple tank cars that destroyed more than 30 buildings in the Lac-Megantic town's centre, roughly half of the downtown area, making it the fourth-deadliest rail accident in Canadian history.

That left the locomotive resting precariously on a slope 10 kilometers (6 miles) away from downtown Lac-Megantic.

"We can't hold people criminally responsible for not being ideal", lawyer Charles Shearson told the court during the trial.

In the long court-room trial, Harding said he had applied only seven brakes when the derailment was occurring and also he did not test the brakes well before beginning the journey.

Lawyers for the accused had argued that many factors were out of their control that contributed to the disaster, including a culture at Montreal, Maine and Atlantic railway (MMA) of relaxed standards and insufficient training.

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