Lac-Megantic: a lawyer for the controller seems to reject the blame on the conductor

Photo: Paul Chiasson, The canadian Press
The train was tragically rushed down a coast in the middle of the night, derailing and igniting a part of the town centre of Lac-Mégantic, killing 47 people.

Richard Labrie is a controller rail competent and conscientious, who did not have to ask a lot of questions to ensure that the conductor had been secured properly the convoy before leaving for the night, pleaded his lawyer Guy Poupart, Friday.


Mr. Labrie is accused of criminal negligence having caused the death of 47 people when a train derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic in July 2013.


The other two defendants in this case are the train conductor Thomas Harding, and John Demaître, who was chief operating officer of the rail company Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) in Quebec. They all three have pleaded not guilty.


According to the Crown, if MESSRS. Labrie and Demaître had asked pertinent questions on the security of the train, they would have realized that there was a gap and would have been able to avoid the tragedy.


Ms. Poupart pleaded all day Friday at the courthouse of Sherbrooke in front of the judge Gaetan Dumas, of the superior Court, and the jury of 14 people.


He summarized the testimony of several people who came to the bar, which have in particular described Mr. Labrie as a man competent, reliable, in that the other “guy on train” had confidence.


And it is precisely because of this trust they have for each other that Mr. Labrie did not have to ask Thomas Harding about how he had secured the train, left unattended on top of a slope for the night.


The train has tragically down this coast in the middle of the night, derailing and igniting a part of the town centre of Lac-Mégantic, killing 47 people.


A few hours earlier, a fire had sparked on the lead locomotive. Firefighters have stopped his engine, which meant that the air brakes were no longer in operation.


It is true that he has not asked Harding how many hand brakes had been applied, was admitted in oral argument ms. Poupart. “And it is true that he did not have to do that,” he continued, adding that none of the rules did not provide for this obligation, and that he had no reason to think that the train was not properly secured.


Why should he doubt of Thomas Harding ? “Richard Labrie was entitled to expect that the locomotive is immobilized according to the criteria that the engine is running or not “, has dropped the lawyer.


By doing this, ms. Poupart seems to reject the blame on the conductor, as was done the day before the prosecutor of John Demaître, for the same reasons.


The railways expert Stephen Callaghan, was called as a witness by the Crown, told the jury that if a sufficient number of hand brakes had been applied to fourteen, while Harding has put that seven — and whether they had been tested during the detention of the train, the tragedy would have been avoided.


Mr. Guy Poupart has attempted to demonstrate the limited role of his client, arguing that Richard Labrie, stationed at Farnham, to be located at 200 km from Lac-Mégantic. He could not know that the information that was provided by others, pleaded the lawyer.


On Monday, it will be the turn of the prosecutors of Thomas Harding to present their arguments in defence.