Sherbrooke Quebec - The Montreal Maine & Atlantic (MMA) railway's track maintenance crew had to go searching for the derailed train's locomotives on the night of explosions that killed 47 people, a Sherbrooke court heard Monday.
MMA foreman Jean-Noel Busque described how he was woken up by his boss, Daniel Aube, and dispatched to the site of the train fire in Nantes, late on the night of 5 Jul 2013.
When he got there, Nantes volunteer firefighters had already put out a chimney fire in one of the locomotives on the tanker train, which had been left overnight on the track.
Busque said he then called the railway traffic controller on duty in Farnham, Richard Labrie, to relay the information given to him by the firefighters about their intervention.
Labrie told him he "could go back to sleep," Busque told the court.
No Longer a Train in Nantes
Busque told the court that sometime after 02:00, Aube called him back, informing him that there was a fire in downtown Lake Megantic and asking him to head there to see how serious it was.
"Did you know what caused the fire?" asked Crown prosecutor Sacha Blais.
"No idea, and I didn't understand what was going on," Busque replied.
Busque said he then called Labrie in Farnham to ask the controller if "his train" was still in Nantes.
"For sure, it's in Nantes," Busque said Labrie told him.
"I can't remember if he asked me, or if I told just him, but I went back to Nantes to see if the train was there."
"There was no longer a train in Nantes."
Tom Harding Donned Fire Suit to Move Cars
Busque was the 24th witness to testify at the trial, before Superior Court Justice Gaetan Dumas and 14 jurors.
Labrie 59, locomotive engineer Tom Harding 56, and operations manager Jean DemaItre 53, are each charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death in connection with the tragedy.
Earlier Monday, Daniel Aube, the MMA's track maintenance director, testified he arrived at the scene of the inferno in Lake Megantic shortly after the derailment, in the early hours of 6 Jul 2013.
He said Harding was on the ground in downtown Lake Megantic to help firefighters move tanker-cars from the train that had derailed.
He said Lake Megantic firefighters asked him to don a fire suit and help move the cars still standing.
"I think there were still about 10 cars on the track, the end of the train," said Aube.
Aube said he asked Harding to do it.
"He had the know-how and training to move the cars," Aube said.
Aube told the jury that when he arrived in Lake Megantic, he had no idea where the locomotives were.
"I asked if the locomotives had derailed in the yard in Megantic. The firefighters answered there were no locomotives in Megantic."
Aube told the court that he and Busque left the site of the fire to go look for the locomotives.
They found them at dawn, about a kilometre from the site of the derailment, he said.