Jurors begin deliberations in Quebec oil train disaster

SHERBROOKE, Quebec — Jury deliberations began Thursday in the trial of three men charged with criminal negligence causing death for a 2013 train derailment that killed 47 people in Quebec.

Train engineer Tom Harding, traffic controller Richard Labrie and train operations manager Jean Demaitre are charged in connection with the accident in which a runaway train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded. They pleaded not guilty.

The prosecution contends Harding failed to perform a proper brake test and didn't apply enough handbrakes after he parked the 73-car oil train late on the night of July 5, 2013. Labrie and Demaitre are accused of failing to ensure the train was properly secure after a fire broke out on the locomotive and firefighters shut off its engine, compromising the braking system.

The 12-member jury completed its first day of deliberations.

Thomas Walsh, one of Harding's lawyers, told reporters earlier Thursday the trial should never even have taken place. He said that the evidence didn't justify a criminal negligence charge and that his client was targeted because of public pressure to blame someone for the tragedy.

Harding's legal team maintains his actions were not a marked departure from the behavior of a reasonable person in similar circumstances and did not reveal a reckless disregard for the life of others.

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