Driver in Lac-Megantic, Quebec railway crash to seek release from jail

Tue May 13, 2014 2:43pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - A train engineer charged with criminal negligence in a Canadian rail disaster that killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec last July will seek to be released on bail at a court appearance on Tuesday, his lawyer said.

Quebec police arrested Thomas Harding, the engineer and train driver, and two other train workers - Jean Demaitre and Richard Labrie - on Monday. They were each charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death.

The same charges were made against the railway company, Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway Ltd (MM&A), which filed for bankruptcy protection last year.

The accused are scheduled to appear before a judge at 2:00 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) in the tiny town of Lac-Megantic, where the train carrying oil from the Bakken oil fields derailed and exploded on July 6, 2013. A fire engulfed a busy night club and flattened much of the town's center.

Lawyer Thomas Walsh said Harding should be released from jail and that he felt a "moral responsibility" for the disaster.

"They have no reason to keep him at all. None," Walsh told RDI Television.

The lawyer described Quebec police as having been overly dramatic on Monday, when they swooped in to arrest Harding with what he described as a SWAT squad and sirens at full volume.

"It was like trying to kill a fly with a cannon. It wasn't necessary," he said.

Walsh said he had offered to have Harding turn himself in voluntarily if and when charges were laid.   Continued...

Thomas Harding (R), Jean Demaitre (C) and Richard Labrie (L) are escorted by police officers as they arrive at the court house in Lac Megantic, May 13, 2014. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger