|Posted on August 31, 2014 at 11:45 AM|
MONTREAL — The union and lawyers representing two railway employees accused in the Lac-Megantic disaster are urging the Crown to drop the charges in light of recent findings by the Transportation Safety Board.
Engineer Tom Harding, railway traffic controller Richard Labrie and Jean Demaitre, the manager of train operations, each face 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death — one for each victim of last summer’s oil-train derailment in the Quebec town.
A conviction carries a maximum life sentence.
On Thursday, the attorneys for Harding and Labrie, as well as a union official, called on prosecutors to re-evaluate their cases following the release of last week’s TSB report into the catastrophe. Demaitre was not unionized.
In its findings, the TSB criticized the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic railway for its “weak safety culture” and also targeted Transport Canada for its poor oversight of the industry, particularly amid a boom in oil-by-rail shipments across the continent.
“We’re asking the Crown to revise the charges against the workers implicated in Megantic,” Daniel Roy, Quebec director of the United Steelworkers, told a news conference.
“We can see who’s really responsible for this event, this whole tragedy.”
Later in the day, however, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said the TSB report does not change anything about the police evidence that was already evaluated by the Crown. Therefore, proceedings are expected to move ahead.
The TSB report, the first comprehensive account of the derailment released to the public, identified 18 contributing factors it says led to the crash.
Among the factors, the TSB said Harding applied an insufficient number of hand brakes on the train and conducted an inadequate test before he left the convoy unattended for the night.
Attorney Thomas Walsh, who represents Harding, said his client’s actions amounted to “human error,” not “wanton and reckless disregard,” which he added was necessary for a criminal-negligence conviction.
He also pointed to the TSB’s findings on Transport Canada and the MMA.
The TSB report concluded that the railway did not thoroughly identify security risks, nor did it have a functioning safety management system — both contributing factors to the crash.