Devastated Quebecois launch class action lawsuit against railway

Devastated Quebecois launch class action lawsuit against railway
Two residents of the Quebec town that was devastated by the derailment of 72 oil tanker cars that killed 50 people are to launch class action lawsuit against the operator in a bid to be compensated for the loss of loved ones and destroyed property.

Guy Ouellet and Yannick Gagné, the plaintiffs in the new suit, are seeking compensations for the disaster which destroyed much of the center of the lakeside town’s, killing 50, including Ouellet’s partner, Diane Bizier, reports Reuters.

The accident also destroyed a swath of property in Lac-Megantic, such as Gagné's popular town bar, the Musi-Cafe, which was reduced to rubble by the blast of the train and the subsequent fire. Musi-Cafe is reported to have been filled with patrons at the time of the incident, most of whom are thought to be dead.

Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway’s chairman, Edward Burkhardt, has apologized to the town of some 6,000 and acknowledged the company’s liability. Burkhardt announced last week that the engineer responsible for parking the train on an uphill grade at a nearby town failed to use sufficient hand brakes.

Thirty-seven bodies have been recovered so far from the ruins of Lac-Megantic, which lies near the border with the US state of Maine. Thirteen residents are still missing and presumed dead.

Lac-Megantic lawyer Daniel Larochelle, whose own office was destroyed in the explosion, filed the first motion for a class action lawsuit on Monday morning.

"The suffering endured by this community and the suffering that is still ongoing has been truly incomprehensible," Larochelle said in a statement. 

Residents watch rising smoke after a freight train loaded with oil derailed in Lac Megantic in Canada's Quebec province on July 6, 2013, sparking explosions that engulfed about 30 buildings in fire. (AFP Photo / FranÁois Laplante-Delagrave)

Emergency crews have been searching the disaster site daily from early in the morning to sunset, working in 15 minute shifts due to temperatures in the area currently running higher than 86 F, compounded by heavy equipment and masks, reports the CBC.

Authorities have been slowly sifting through rubble for the 13 bodies that have yet to be found.

The local coroner's office says it has identified 11 victims of the recovered 37 bodies as of Monday evening.

Two buildings were demolished on Sunday after they were said to be unstable and a threat to crews working in the area. The center of Lac-Megantic remains closed to residents.

The suit, to be filed in the district of Saint-Francois in southeastern Quebec, will seek compensation for those residents who lost loved ones or were injured during the explosions, as well as property claims and business losses.

Both Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway’s chairman, Edward Burkhardt as well as its president Robert Grindrod are named in the initial suit document, along with other company executives and the train’s engineer, Thomas Harding.

According to the CBC Quebec’s government has already promised a $60-million plan to help the residents of Lac-Mégantic manage and rebuild, including 1,500 checks for emergency assistance to families who had to be evacuated from the center of town.

The train derailment at Lac-Mégantic is now considered one of the worst railway disasters since the St-Hilaire train disaster in 1864 and one of the worst in Canada’s history. Over 30 buildings are thought to have been destroyed at the town’s core, including its library and historical archives.