Railway won't have to stand trial for Canada train disaster

MONTREAL — The bankrupt railway at the center of a 2013 train derailment that killed 47 people in the Canadian province of Quebec will not have to stand trial for criminal negligence, provincial officials said Tuesday.

There was little chance of convicting the Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway of negligence after three of its former employees facing the same charge were acquitted in January, said a spokesman for prosecutors, Robert Benoit.

"The (Crown) was no longer reasonably convinced it could obtain a conviction against the company," Benoit said. "This closes the file."

An unattended train carrying crude oil rolled down an incline before coming off the tracks in the town of Lac-Megantic in 2013, exploded into a massive ball of fire and consumed much of the downtown, killing the 47 people.

The Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway currently exists as a post-bankruptcy corporate entity with no money of its own and with no physical or operational assets. The defunct railway wasn't even represented by lawyers during the criminal negligence proceedings.

Even if prosecutors had somehow obtained a guilty verdict, Benoit said the next steps would have been unclear.

Before the tragedy, the railroad existed as two companies, one based in the United States and the other in Canada. The derailment sparked legal claims against it that forced it into bankruptcy proceedings on both sides of the border.

Attorney Robert Keach, the court-appointed trustee overseeing the bankruptcy proceedings in United States, said the railroad has no money of its own.

As part of the bankruptcy proceedings in the United States and Canada, several companies tied to the disaster agreed to pay into a fund for victims and creditors of the tragedy, in exchange for legal immunity.

In January, a jury acquitted former employees of the railroad of criminal negligence causing the deaths.

Lac-Megantic's current mayor said she was stunned by the decision to abandon proceedings against the railroad.

"Companies need to be held accountable," Julie Morin said.

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