MONTREAL – The railway at the heart of the Lac-Megantic tragedy five years ago will not have to stand trial for criminal negligence causing the death of 47 people, Crown officials in Quebec said Tuesday.
Prosecutors weren’t convinced they could obtain a guilty verdict against the now-bankrupt Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway, Crown spokesman Robert Benoit said in an interview.
One of the reasons for believing that, he said, is the acquittal in January of three former MMA railway employees who were charged with criminal negligence in the tragedy.
The railway was facing the same charge.
“The (Crown) was no longer reasonably convinced it could obtain a conviction against the company,” Benoit said.
The order to halt the procedures against MMA was tabled Tuesday morning in a courtroom in Sherbrooke, Que. “This closes the file,” Benoit added.
An unattended MMA-owned train carrying crude oil rolled down an incline before coming off the tracks in Lac-Megantic and exploding in the wee hours of July 6, 2013, killing the 47 people.
MMA went through bankruptcy proceedings in the United States and in Canada and its assets have been sold. The defunct company was not represented by a lawyer in the criminal negligence case.
In February, MMA and six of its former employees settled with federal prosecutors and were ordered to pay fines totalling $1.25 million, while one ex-railway worker was given a conditional jail term.
As of early that month, the company had paid only $400,000, an amount set aside during bankruptcy proceedings for the U.S. branch of the company.
A lawyer with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada said at the time the financial status of the defunct railroad was “precarious” and that it wasn’t clear how the court would collect the outstanding money.