CHICAGO (CN) – The guardian of a girl whose father burned to death in the July 6 Quebec train disaster sued the railroad and seven petroleum transport companies, claiming negligent safety policies caused the train’s derailment and explosion.
Annick Roy, the guardian of Fanny Veilleux and administrator of Jean-Guy Veilleux’s estate, sued these defendants in Cook County Court: Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MM&A); Rail World; its CEO Edward Burkhardt; World Fuel Services Corp.; Western Petroleum Co.; Petroleum Transport Solutions; Dakota Plains Transloading; Dakota Petroleum Transport Solutions; Dakota Plains Marketing; and DPTS Marketing. The last five defendants are all LLCs.
An unattended freight train carrying 72 tankers filled with crude oil rolled downhill for 7½ miles on July 6, until it derailed in Lac-Mègantic, a small town in eastern Quebec near the Maine border. There it exploded and caused a fire that killed more than 45 people, and “turned the picturesque community into a scene from a war zone,” according to the lawsuit.
Here is how the complaint describes the catastrophe: “According to work rules, [train engineer Tom] Harding stopped in Nantes around 11:25 p.m. and parked the train on the main line.
“After parking the train, Harding set the brakes, shut down all the train’s locomotives except the lead engine and, pursuant to MM&A policy, abandoned the train so he could catch some sleep at a local hotel.
“Sometime before midnight on July 5, 2013, the Nantes Fire department and a police officer responded to a 911 call relating to a fire on the first MM&A locomotive. Dutifully, the Nantes Fire Department notified MM&A which dispatched a track maintenance employee to the scene.
“Per protocol provided by MM&A, the Nantes Fire Department powered down the locomotive’s engine before attending to the flames.
“The Nantes Fire Department extinguished the fire by 12:15 a.m. and the firefighters left the scene in the custody of the MM&A track maintenance employee who assured the firemen that everything was ok and that their further assistance was unnecessary.
“With no locomotive engine running, the train’s air-brake system lost power and eventually the brake block that prevents the wheels from turning was released.
“Shortly after the MM&A track maintenance employee left the scene, the unattended train, without the benefit of an operating air-brake system, began rolling in the direction of Lac-Mègantic.
“At or about 1:15 a.m., the unattended MM&A runaway train entered downtown Lac-Mègantic at a high rate of speed.
“Although the locomotive engines were able to negotiate a sharp curve in the tracks, the DOT-111 tankers, with their higher center of gravity, began derailing.
“Over twenty DOT-111 derailed tanker cars left the tracks and careened into each other, and due to their well-documented design flaw, immediately ruptured and spilled over a million gallons of oil into the streets, storm sewers, manholes, basements, businesses, and homes adjacent to the tracks.
“Soon thereafter, the crude oil ignited and then exploded, incinerating everyone and everything in the immediate area.
“It is estimated that more than one and one-half million gallons of crude oil spilled from the DOT-111 tankers, most of it fuel to the explosions and fire, with the remainder polluting the picturesque lake which the town is named after.”
Roy adds that “For more than 20 years, problems with DOT-111 tankers rupturing upon derailment have been well documented by government safety regulators and media outlets. For example, The Associated Press, upon review of United States federal accident data, found that DOT-111 tankers carrying ethanol had breached in 40 serious accidents since 2000.
“As a result of the clear danger to the public, for many years the United States National Transportation Safety Board (‘NTSB’) has urged the railroad and petroleum industries to retrofit existing DOT-111’s with reinforced hulls and shields on each end of the tank’ however, the transport industry has rebuffed these efforts to avoid the anticipated costs.”
Eighty percent of Canadian tanker cars and 69 percent of the U.S. fleet were DOT-111’s in 2012, the complaint states.
Roy claims that Veilleux was killed in the fire and explosion due to MM&A’s negligence in leaving the train unattended and carrying flammable liquids in defective DOT-111 tanks.
Roy seeks damages for wrongful death and negligence.
She is represented by Peter Flowers with Meyers & Flowers.
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