Conductor Acquitted in Worst Canadian Rail Disaster in Century

(Bloomberg) -- Three former employees of the bankrupt Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Ltd. were acquitted in connection with a 2013 derailment that killed 47 people in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

Thomas Harding, the train’s conductor, and his former colleagues Jean Demaitre and Richard Labrie were declared not guilty of criminal negligence, the CBC said. The jury members had been deliberating since Jan. 11, following a trial that began in September.

“We’re very satisfied,” Thomas Walsh, Harding’s lawyer, told reporters at the courthouse in Sherbrooke, Quebec in comments that were carried by Canada’s Ici RDI television network. Harding didn’t say anything when the verdict was announced “because he is too moved to speak,” Walsh said.

Much of downtown Lac-Megantic was destroyed when an unattended train carrying crude oil rolled down a hill, derailed and exploded on a Friday night in July 2013, in what would be Canada’s worst railway disaster in a century. Montreal, Maine & Atlantic later filed for bankruptcy.

Harding and the other former employees of the railroad are still facing federal charges as well as a civil suit, the lawyer said.

“We have other chapters left, but this was the most important chapter for him,” Walsh said of his client. “He’s happy to turn the page. He’s been carrying this on his shoulders for four or five years.”

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