Wednesday, December 8

One Year After Lac-Megantic Crash, Lawsuits Rage On

A year after one of the worst railway disasters in North American history, the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec is still struggling to rebuild what they lost. Last July, a Maine-owned oil train derailed in Lac-Megantic killing 47 people and setting off a chain of explosions that devastated the town overnight. The accident occurred when the crew and engineer left the train to sleep for the night, failing to set sufficient brakes and allowing the train to roll into the town and derail.

Construction equipment is still scattered throughout the town, digging out oil-seeped pavement and soil where the public library, post office and restaurants once stood. The fenced-off disaster area still has a long way to go before new roads and buildings will be opened up, and the environmental cleanup of the nearby river will cost at least $200 million.

The accident prompted tighter regulations on tankers in the US and Canada, but it’s not enough for the residents who were injured or lost loved ones in the massive accident. To the dismay of many townspeople, it may not be as long before oil trains return to the troubled town, especially since many people still feel that they’re in the midst of the tragedy. City officials are pushing for the rail company to create a new track that would go around the town instead of through it.

Only $25 million in insurance payouts have been provided for personal injury, wrongful death claims from families of the deceased, property damage, environmental impact and fire suppression.

“An accident this big is going to require a lot more than $25 million to cover all of the loss and damages,” says Aaron Waxman, A. Waxman Law and Associates. “The insurance companies need to step up and help these people.”

Since the bankrupt railroad recently sold and the fund for compensation is small, many are waiting on the creation of a settlement fund with hundreds of millions of dollars. The government in Quebec is currently funding the cleanup but has filed claims against Montreal Main and Atlantic and Irving Oil.In May, three railway employees were charged with 47 accounts of criminal negligence, including Thomas Harding, the engineer who allegedly failed to set enough breaks on the plain. They’ll appear again in Court in September.

For now, citizens of Lac-Megantic can only rebuild, wait, and hope for the best from the ongoing lawsuits.

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