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Updated: Tue, 13 May 2014 10:54:42 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Lac-Mégantic derailment: MM&A Railway workers face charges



A burnt out vehicle sits near the wreckage of a train car following a train derailment in Lac Megantic, Que. Christinne Muschi/Reuters

A burnt out vehicle sits near the wreckage of a train car following a train derailment in Lac Megantic, Que. Christinne Muschi/Reuters

Three former employees of the now-defunct Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway will appear in the Lac-Mégantic, Que., courthouse today to face charges of criminal negligence in the derailment that left 47 people dead last July. 

The charges come about 10 months after a train carrying crude oil from North Dakota came loose in the middle of the night, rolled downhill unmanned and derailed in the centre of the town of Lac-Mégantic in eastern Quebec.

The Crown announced late Monday that MM&A and three former employees — Jean Demaitre, Richard Labrie and engineer Tom Harding — will each face 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death, one count for each person who died in last summer's disaster.

A message left at the offices of MM&A was not immediately returned.

The assets of the railway company were sold to an American firm, Florida Great Lakes Partners, in January, after the MM&A filed for bankruptcy protection.

Harding was the engineer the night of the July derailment. 

According to the prosecutor's office, Labrie was the railway traffic controller and Demaitre was the manager of train operations. 

Criminal negligence causing death carries a maximum life sentence.

Harding's arrest uses 'totally unnecessary' show of force

Harding's lawyer, Thomas Walsh, said the charges come as no surprise, but he was taken aback by how the arrest was carried out.

Walsh said he has written the Crown several times, to let them know if Harding was charged, he would be willing to show up voluntarily at court. 

But instead, Walsh says police "decided to make a monumental show of the thing."

"Basically Mr. Harding was at home in the backyard, working on his boat with his son and a friend ... when the SWAT squad showed up, heavily armed ... and told everybody to get down on the ground and there was sirens wailing all over the place.

"They came in like gangbusters ... all dressed in camouflage outfits, faces hidden and their guns drawn," Walsh said. 

"They made a huge show of the thing and which I consider to be totally unnecessary." 

He said the fact they would opt to use that kind of force "goes beyond weird."

Walsh said his client has been in limbo for the past 10 months, waiting to see what will happen. He said the arrest at least removed some of that suspense. 

Harding is expected to plead not guilty.

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