Reckless policies, zero safety culture and the relentless drive for profit first. These are the GOVERNMENT’S witnesses testifying to these facts. Testimony still to come will show that the MMA’s standard for handbrakes would not have prevented the wreck and that as many as 26 handbrakes would have been required under the conditions created by MMA. The wrong men are on trial.
Unsecured train left on MMA tracks just 2 days after Lac-Mégantic tragedy, trial hears
Transport Canada inspector found 89-car train with 5 handbrakes applied, half the required number
By Claude Rivest, CBC News Posted: Oct 30, 2017 5:42 PM ET Last Updated: Oct 30, 2017 5:43 PM ET
Two days after a runaway train derailed in Lac-Mégantic, exploding and killing 47 people, Transport Canada inspector Alain Richer found another train belonging to the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) railway parked in nearby Vachon hadn’t been properly secured.
Richer, now retired, testified Monday at the trial of Thomas Harding, 56, Jean Demaître, 53, and Richard Labrie, 59. The three former MMA employees are charged with 47 counts each of criminal negligence causing death in connection with the 2013 rail disaster.
According to Richer, when he and another Transport Canada employee went to inspect the 89-car train, they noticed it had been secured with only five handbrakes.
“They hadn’t met the minimum required,” Richer testified.
He said MMA’s own internal regulations showed the train should have been secured with double that number of handbrakes.
- Train inspector lacked experience and training, Lac-Mégantic trial hears
- MMA train that derailed and exploded at Lac-Mégantic nearly 3,000 tonnes too heavy
To determine the minimum number of handbrakes, Richer testified, workers had to follow a simple calculation, outlined on a chart in the company’s general instructions: Take 10 per cent of the number of rails cars, then add two.
Based on that chart, the train parked in Vachon should have been secured with 10 handbrakes, Richer said.
When Richer noticed only five handbrakes had been applied, he contacted an MMA supervisor, who sent an employee to the site. That employee, Randy Stahl, performed a brake efficiency test on the train as Richer watched.
This essentially means engaging the locomotive’s throttle at its lowest power setting to see if it would move or stay put. The train didn’t move, passing the test.
Just the same, Stahl put on an additional seven handbrakes, bringing the number to 12. However, Michael Horan, MMA’s assistant director of operations, later added another three handbrakes, bringing the total to 15, the trial has heard.
Richer also testified that MMA employees had not inspected the tanker cars involved in the Lac-Mégantic disaster. He said according to the rules and regulations, the cars didn’t warrant an inspection, as the train had already been certified by Canadian Pacific Rail employees at the Côte Saint-Luc yard before it left for Farnham.
Penalty brake failed to kick in
Richer also testified on tests he and a colleague performed on locomotive 5017, the lead locomotive involved in the July 6, 2013 derailment, to determine how long it took for the air brakes to lose their efficiency on the night the train derailed.
The court heard earlier in the trial that the locomotive had been shut down by firefighters who doused a fire on board about an hour before it rolled, unmanned, down the track towards Lac-Mégantic.
Richer said the test was to determine how much air was left inside the air conduit when the train broke away.
Harding’s lawyer asked the witness if the test was also to determine why the penalty brake — a type of backup defence, mean to prevent runaway trains — didn’t kick in.
“We already knew there was no emergency application. Indeed, we wanted to know why,” said Richer.
Richer said the test did identify the cause. The explanation of that cause is being left to another Crown witness, Stephen Callaghan, a rail expert who is to testify later in the trial.
Richer resumes his testimony before Superior Court Justice Gaétan Dumas and a 14-member jury at the Sherbrooke courthouse Tuesday.