(Adds comments from public prosecutor's office spokesman,
TORONTO/OTTAWA May 12 Canadian authorities on
Monday charged Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway Ltd (MM&A)
and three employees with criminal negligence following last
summer's train derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, that killed
Thomas Harding, Jean Demaitre, Richard Labrie - all
employees of the railway - and the company itself were charged
with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death, according
to Rene Verret, spokesman for the public prosecutor's office.
He said Harding was the driver of the train, while Labrie
was a controller at MM&A, and Demaitre was director of
Representatives for the three men and railway could not
immediately be reached for comment.
Verret said the three were placed under arrest on Monday and
will appear in court on Tuesday afternoon in Lac-Megantic.
The derailment occurred after a single engineer, Harding,
parked his train for the night on a main line uphill from the
small town. The train of oil tankers started rolling and
eventually derailed, exploding into balls of fire and flattening
the center of the town.
U.S.-based MM&A filed for bankruptcy protection in the wake
of the disaster. MM&A Chairman Edward Burkhardt, who was not
charged, told Reuters in March he had been in touch with
investigators "from time to time" to provide requested
The accident put North America's thriving crude-by-rail
business under a regulatory microscope. Shipping crude oil via
rails has soared in recent years, propelled by increased
production in Western Canada and North Dakota without an
accompanying boost in pipeline capacity.
The railway initially blamed the catastrophe on the failure
of the train's pneumatic airbrakes after an engine fire.
Burkhardt later said the train's engineer did not apply an
adequate number of handbrakes to hold the train in place.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Hodgson in Toronto and Louise Egan in
Ottawa; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Ken Wills)