Firefighters testify in Lac-Mégantic trial about final hours leading up to disaster

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Aerial view of charred freight train in Lac-Mégantic following the July 2013 derailment and fire.
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
SHERBROOKE, Quebec – Volunteer firefighters from a small Quebec town testified at the Lac-Mégantic derailment trial last week about the hours leading up to one of the deadliest rail disasters in modern history.

One of the firefighters, Jean-Luc Montminy, told the court that he saw the doomed Montreal, Maine & Atlantic oil train rolling toward downtown Lac-Mégantic just moments before it derailed and exploded in July 2013, killing 47 people and leveling the heart of the community.

Montminy is one of four firefighters from the town of Nantes who responded to a fire aboard the oil train’s lead locomotive, MM&A C30-7 No. 5017, late on the night July 5, 2013, CBC News reports. The men testified that they were told to activate the emergency fuel shutoff. They used a combination of water and foam to put the fire out on the train that had been parked a few hours earlier by MM&A engineer Thomas Harding, one of three former employees on trial. Harding, manager Jean Demaître, and dispatcher Richard Labrie have each been charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death.

After the fire was put out, the airbrakes began to release and the train started to roll toward Lac-Mégantic. Prosecutors have accused Harding of not applying enough handbrakes to the train that was parked on a hill.

Montminy testified that an hour or so after he left the fire station for home he came to a railroad crossing. Initially he did not see or hear a train, but moments after he saw the oil train with no lights roll by. Montminy returned to the fire station to report what he had seen. "I told them there was something wrong with the train we'd just worked on, and as far as I could tell, it was headed all by itself towards Lac Megantic,” Montminy testified. Soon after a call for help came from Lac-Mégantic.

The firefighters testified that they were never trained on how to deal with a locomotive fire or that the train they were working on contained hazardous materials that night.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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