Lac-Megantic: the prosecution is hearing a final witness

After 34 days of trial and thirty-one witnesses, the prosecution declared its case closed at the trial of the three former employees of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MMA) following the Lac-Mégantic tragedy.

T he train driver, Thomas Harding, Rail Traffic Controller (RTC) Richard Labrie and Chief Operating Officer Jean Demaître are charged with criminal negligence causing the death of 47 people in Lac-Mégantic on July 6, 2013.

Read also: The essential brake efficiency test

The last witness called to the bar for the lawsuit on Tuesday at the Sherbrooke courthouse, the locomotive manager Randy Stahl had received no call for a fault on a locomotive on July 5, 2013.

He testified that he spoke “half a dozen or even a dozen times” with Thomas Harding for problems with the locomotives, but that he did not speak with him the day before the tragedy.

Randy Stahl confirmed that the Derby mechanical workshop in Maine was closed on July 4, 2013 due to the Independence Day holiday in the United States.

“I was on call,” says Randy Stahl.

The witness was asked about the problem at locomotive 5017 that was reported by other witnesses earlier in the trial.

“Engine hunting is not a problem enough to remove a locomotive from service,” says Randy Stahl.

The witness has already taken control of a train in Nantes that had been left unattended with the applied hand brakes.

He recalls having found that 18 hand brakes on a convoy of 80 wagons of crude oil left in Nantes.

“There was an average of 16 to 18 tight hand brakes in Nantes. The quantity depended on the length and weight of the train (…) I did tests of efficiency in any situation because at this point we are very alone when we leave a train, “says Randy Stahl.

He explained that locomotive hand brakes are only used to restrain locomotives. Randy Stahl explained that he did not apply hand brakes on the locomotives, but on the cars.

“The hand brakes on the cars tighten eight brake shoes on the wheels, while two brake shoes are applied with the hand brakes on the locomotives,” says Randy Stahl.

He repeated in his testimony that it was a right in the rail industry to know that an unattended train had been secured.

According to him, the most important rule in securing a rail convoy is the efficiency test.

“The notebook specifies the minimum number to apply. We do not have the right to choose the number. We can not choose the rule to apply, we can not afford it, “says Randy Stahl.

Judge Gaétan Dumas of the Superior Court postponed the remainder of the trial until next Monday, December 11, to allow the accused’s lawyers to determine if they will present a defense.

“The accused are not required to present a defense … We must not draw a conclusion if they choose to present a defense or not,” said Judge Dumas to the jury.

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