One of the worst train accidents in recent memory struck this weekend in a sleepy Quebec town. According to various reports, the tragedy struck in the early morning on Saturday. Around 1am a train owned by Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) became dislodged while sitting in a yard on top of a hill above the town of Lac-Megantic.
Once lose, the locomotive with 72 cars careened right to toward the town. Tragically, each of the cars were filled with crude oil. When the train eventually derailed in the center of town, the oil caused an immense fireball.
The damage was severe. The most recent reports suggest that at least twenty people have been confirmed dead with another thirty still missing. Sadly, the more time that passes without identification of the lost residents, the less likely a happy outcome. Local authorities already conceded that most of those missing are presumed dead.
What Caused the Quebec Train Accident?
How was this disaster allowed to happen?
Obviously there are protocols to follow to properly secure trains and ensure that they do not dislodge and head down a track out of control. Something clearly went wrong in this case. Authorities are still investigating the situation, but a good deal of information has already been uncovered which reveal the mistakes which led to the tragedy.
The chairman of the MMA conceded at a press conference that the train engineer left the locomotive on Friday evening–he was staying in a hotel a few miles away. While sitting vacant, near midnight, a small fire broke out on the train. Local firefighters were called to put out the fire. As part of that process, the locomotive was shut off. This caused the air brakes to become disabled. Reports suggest that at least two MMA employees knew that the locomotive was shut off.
In addition, yesterday the MMA chairman finally admitted that the handbrakes on the train were not properly set. This is a critical safety step which is the obligation of the train engineer. The chairman explained, “He [the engineer] said he applied 11 hand brakes. We think that’s not true. Initially we believed him, but now we don’t.”
In fact, local authorities are conducting a criminal investigation to ensure no stone is left unturned when it comes to understanding what happened, holding responsible parties accountable, and pushing for changes so this never happens again.
Civil lawsuits are expected as well, with affected families seeking to protect their legal rights. Observers point out that the suits may be filed in Chicago. That is because MMA is affiliated with a rail management and investment firm known as Rail World Inc. Rail World inc. is based out of Chicago.
More developments will be forthcoming in the coming days as more is uncovered about the case. It is important for all families affected by this tragedy is to ensure they protect their rights by contacting an experienced train accident attorney as soon as possible.