"Lac-Megantic, QC Three Years Later"

A runaway Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway crude oil train brought death and destruction to the small town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada on July 6, 2013. Three years later, trains still roll through downtown just feet from restaurants and shops. The investigation into the accident revealed that a railroad worker had failed to set a sufficient number of hand brakes during an overnight stopover, allowing the unmanned train to roll downhill into the town in the dead of night, setting off a conflagration that took the lives of 47 people, destroying 40 buildings and 53 vehicles. As various news reports at the time indicated, 63 of the tank cars derailed and bunched up, causing the massive fire that destroyed several blocks of the downtown area.

Three men, including the train's conductor, still face charges of criminal negligence causing death. The route the MM&A used (ex-Canadian Pacific) runs through Lag-Megantic on a crescent alignment. Residents now recall these trains as a haunting reminder of the tragedy and have sought to have the rail line rerouted around the town. The town's people, as they recalled the horrific accident and those who perished, are reviewing a study of a proposed bypass, estimated to cost $155 million Canadian dollars. It calls for seven miles of new track around downtown, but many of Lac-Megantic's 6,000 residents fear the study will take years.

Chief Executive Officer John Giles of successor railroad Central Maine & Quebec, said no crude oil has moved through Lac-Megantic since the incident. He also said that traffic on the CM&Q is growing, but that funding for any bypass would need to come from the Province of Quebec and/or the Canadian government. The small railroad simply does not have the dollars to invest in the project.

Just hours after the 1:30 AM explosion, 30 firefighters from adjacent Maine towns arrived in Lac-Megantic to help local firefighters. In 2014, Rangeley Fire Chief Tim Pellerin testified before the U. S. Congress in support of increased hazardous-material training for fire departments after he saw firsthand the challenges emergency first responders faced after the explosion. Three years since the devastation, Lac-Megantic is still working to rebuild, but parts of the town are still gated off.

--From the Portland Press Herald, Portland, ME--

- - - - - -

[back]