Former Montreal Maine & Atlantic employees Thomas Harding, right, Jean Demaitre, centre, and Richard Labrie, are escorted by police to appear in a Lake Megantic court proceeding - 13 May 2014 Ryan Remiorz.
13 May 2014
Three Men Freed After Arraignment
Lake Megantic Quebec - The lawyer for one of the three men arrested Monday in last summer's Lake Megantic disaster wonders why his client was arrested in such a loud fashion by a full tactical squad.
Lawyer Thomas Walsh told CTV's Canada AM Tuesday that a SWAT team "descended" on the home of his client, locomotive engineer Thomas Harding, Friday afternoon.
"They were fully armed, dressed in camouflage gear, with bandanas around their faces, and with their sirens going full blast," Walsh said from Sherbrooke.
Police forced Harding, his son, and family friend into the group face-down, before cuffing Harding and taking him away, Walsh said.
It's "a little bit disappointing" that police would choose to proceed that way, Walsh said, because he had offered to have Harding appear in court at a set time once the Crown had decided whether to lay charges.
"They chose to ignore that offer and to basically try to kill a fly with a cannon," Walsh said.
Harding was one of three men charged Monday in the railway disaster.
He was the engineer who parked the train filled with oil for the night on 6 Jul 2013, before heading to a motel to sleep.
During the night, 60 tanker cars came loose and rolled backward into the town.
At least five tankers exploded, levelling 30 buildings and killing 47 men and women.
Also charged Monday were the now-defunct Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway, and two MMA employees, Jean Demaitre, and Richard Labrie.
The three men appeared in a makeshift courtroom in Lake Megantic on Tuesday afternoon where, collectively, they faced 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death.
They were freed on various conditions after being arraigned.
Walsh says his client has been trying to keep a low profile since the disaster and mostly stays at home working on his boat and caring for his ailing mother.
He says Harding has been living with the stress of having been involved in the disaster that killed so many people, calling it "a huge moral burden" to bear.
"Quite apart from what your legal responsibility may, or may not have been, you always say, I could have done something more, I should have been more alert to this, I should have thought of this. You're always haunted by what you could have, or should have, done," Walsh said.
The charges come a full 10 months after the disaster and just days before the closing of the sale of the bankrupt railroad.
Rene Verret, a spokesman for the prosecutors, told The Canadian Press that prosecutors had hoped to announce the charges earlier, but they had to find and arrest those charged as well as inform the families of the victims.