Lac-Mégantic settlement funded as criminal case continues

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Firefighters continue to spray the derailed cars days after the incident.
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
LAC-MÉGANTIC, Quebec – Two-and-a-half years after an oil train derailed and exploded in the heart of a small Quebec town, the incident's victims will receive a $330 million settlement.

On Tuesday, Robert Keach, the bankruptcy trustee for the now defunct Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, announced that the settlement fund set up for the victims of the Lac-Mégantic oil train wreck was now fully funded to the tune of $460 million Canadian. Approximately $114 million Canadian will go to the descendants and family members of the 47 people killed when the loaded oil train exploded in the middle of the night. The remaining $317 million Canadian will go to the holders of personal injury, moral damage, and economic and property damage claims. Keach says victims should expect payments to begin early in the new year.

“We are very pleased that we will be able to fund the trust before the holidays, and that distributions will reach the families as soon as possible next year,” he said.

Two dozen companies that were directly and indirectly involved with the wreck, including the MM&A, oil companies and other railroads, all agreed to pay into the fund following the derailment.

While the victims start to receive checks in the mail, attorneys are gearing up for what will sure to be a complex criminal case against three former MM&A employees, engineer Tom Harding, dispatcher Richard Labrie, and manager of train operations Jean Demaitre. The three men all pleaded not guilty last year to 47 counts of criminal endangerment causing causing death. Although the trial was due to start in Lac-Mégantic this month it was pushed back until April 2016 to give prosecutors more time. If convicted each of the men could face life in prison for their roles in the deadly wreck.

Four other former MM&A employees, along with the three previously charged, have also been accused with violating Canada's Railway Safety Act and the Fisheries Act. If convicted, the accused could be fined $50,000, six months in jail, or both. Among those who pleaded not guilty to the charges last month were three former executives, including former MM&A president Robert Grindrod. Not among those charged with a crime stemming from the July 2013 derailment is RailWorld Inc. President Ed Burkhardt.

The July 2013 derailment was the first of a series of high profile oil train wrecks across North America in recent years however it has been only fatal one so far. Forty-seven people were killed and more than 30 buildings were leveled in the wreck. Since then, the MM&A has gone bankrupt and its former Bangor & Aroostook and Canadian Pacific rail lines are now operated by the Central Maine & Quebec.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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