Montreal Maine & Atlantic railway engineer Tom Harding - Date unknown Jeremie Stall-Paquet.
9 October 2013
Web Site Launched to Help
Rail Engineer Pay Legal Fees
Albany New York USA - A fellow rail worker has launched a web site in support of Tom Harding, the engineer who was the last to drive the Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railroad (MMA) train that derailed in Lake Megantic in July.
The web site, Tom Harding Defense Fund (link fails - 5 Jan 2014), was launched by Randy MacDonald, an Albany, N.Y. man who worked with Harding and his father, Tom Harding Sr., for 19 years.
"We stayed in a bunk house at the same site as the derailment took place. I left when the shortline railroad took over," MacDonald wrote in an email.
"If I had stayed it could have happened to me."
MacDonald said he his union donated US$40,000 to the Red Cross Lake Megantic Fund, "so I thought we could start a fund to help Tom."
Tom Walsh, Harding's lawyer, said MacDonald contacted him "very, very shortly" after the disaster, asking how he could help.
"The nice thing about it, I think, is the moral support that somebody who shares the same job would be thinking about him."
The site description says the fund was "inspired by a former co-worker at Canadian Pacific Railway and created by railroad employees in the Albany, N.Y. area."
"If our railroad family could band together, we could help this railroader in a big way. Even if you could give just the price of a cup of coffee it would be a great help," reads the description.
Legal fees, according to the web site and Walsh, are approximately $10,000.
Harding, a veteran train engineer, was the sole operator of the MMA train the night before the devastating derailment 6 Jul 2013. He parked the 72-car train in Nantes, Quebec, about 12 kilometres from Lake Megantic and left for the night.
Just before midnight, the Nantes fire department was called after a blaze erupted in the engine. Shortly before 1 a.m., the unmanned train began rolling downhill towards Lake Megantic, derailing and setting off a string of explosions that left 47 people dead.
Harding was taken in for police questioning for 10 hours the morning after the disaster. In addition to an investigation by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, police are also probing the accident. No criminal charges have been laid.
Harding had since been named in a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of victims, calling him "an incompetent employee." The allegations haven't been proven in court.