MMA shown to have applied risky pressure on Harding and others

 TVA Nouvelles

Harding had already been criticized for applying too many brakes

Caroline Lepage | QMI Agency

 AUDRÉ KIEFFER / QMI AGENCY

Thomas Harding had been criticized in the past by an MMA leader because he applied too many brakes to his locomotives. He was also ordered to park his convoy of oil in the main railway in Nantes, it was learned Thursday morning.

Harding’s lawyer, Thomas Walsh, vigorously cross-examined, Thursday, the head of the Sûreté du Québec’s investigation, Mathieu Bouchard. Harding and two other former employees, Jean Demaitre and Richard Labrie are facing criminal negligence charges causing the deaths of the 47 victims of Lac-Mégantic on July 6, 2013.

Mr. Bouchard defended himself before the 14 members of the jury, at the Sherbrooke court house, that the investigation of the SQ had been carried out in depth. Investigators traveled about five times to the United States to interview 31 MMA employees, working with US law enforcement agencies such as the FBI. No fewer than 53,000 computer files were seized and analyzed.

“Our priority was to have the truth about this tragedy,” said Mr. Bouchard.

Issues at the heart of the dispute

However, Mr. Walsh asked him if he remembered an email from the MMA officer, where he blamed train driver Thomas Harding for applying too many automatic brakes. The company also wanted to shut down the engine of the locomotives in the summer to save fuel.

In addition, the prosecutor questioned the investigator if he knew why the technology that was to activate emergency braking on locomotive 5017, which caught fire in Nantes before the oil train drifted off, on 6 July 2013, was not functional.

He also cross-examined Mr. Bouchard if he had inquired, when he met with the company’s train maintenance personnel in Maine, why the piston that was still defective in locomotive 5017, night of the derailment, had been poorly repaired.

Mr. Walsh also inquired whether Mr. Bouchard had investigated to understand why the oil transported by the tank cars that Harding was driving during the tragedy was much more volatile than the one identified, or else the Lac-Mégantic explosion, would never have known this magnitude.

“There was a problem with labeling,” admitted the investigator.

For Walsh, the fact that these questions, which seem to him to be at the heart of the dispute, have not all been clarified, makes him believe that the police investigation was directed from the beginning for the three accused to be scapegoats.

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