A former train inspector with Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) railway said he never checked to see if the train's previous engineer had noted any defects with the locomotive the morning before the 2013 rail disaster which killed 47 people.

Yves Gendreau, 42, told a Sherbrooke courtroom Wednesday he remembers watching the convoy leave the station at Farnham, Que., for Lac-Mégantic after visually inspecting the train's locomotives on July 5, 2013.  

Gendreau said he also did a separate inspection of the tank cars with an inspector from Transport Canada the day before the derailment and said he didn't notice any abnormalities.

Gendreau, testifying with a poised demeanour for a second day Wednesday, told Superior Court Justice Gaétan Dumas and the jury that he couldn't remember many of the events leading up to the disaster with clarity, often answering questions with, "I can't say with certainty."

Former MMA locomotive engineer Thomas Harding, 56, rail traffic controller Richard Labrie, 59, and operations manager Jean Demaitre, 53, are on trial, each charged with criminal negligence causing 47 deaths.

Lack of experience

The judge asked Gendreau for a precision about the document used by train conductors to write down any problems they notice on the locomotive while operating it.

"Form 5001-a  — does that ring a bell?" asked Dumas.

"Yes," replied Gendreau.  

"When you do your inspection, do you check to see if there is one on the locomotives?" pursued Dumas.  

"At that time in 2013, it was not something I did due to a lack of experience or lack of  training,"  replied Gendreau.  

Gendreau told the court he boarded the locomotive to make sure the forms used for writing down defects with the locomotive were on the train, but he didn't check to see if anything was written on them.

Under cross-examination by Demaître's lawyer, Gaétan Bourassa, Gendreau told the court he didn't have much experience in 2013 and only started inspecting trains by himself a few weeks before the derailment.


Three former MMA employees are on trial for criminal negligence causing death after an unattended freight train carrying crude oil ran away and derailed, resulting in the fire and explosion that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Que., in July 2013. (CBC)

Brake tests

Bourassa showed Gendreau a brake test form with his signature on it, apparently indicating he'd tested the brakes on the train in Farnham on July 5, 2013.

"Where was this test performed?" asked Bourassa.  

"I don't remember having performed the brake test on these cars," replied Gendreau.

"The only test that was done was the SBU test [a device to test emergency brakes]" he continued.

"This form that we see should have only have had the SBU number indicated, as well as the date and time," he said.

"Because in reality, it wasn't tested by yourself?" asked Bourassa.

"Correct, only the SBU was tested," said Gendreau.

Gendreau not in favour of 1-man crews

Under cross-examination by Guy Poupart, Demaître's lawyer, Gendreau admitted he only remembered the events of the day before the derailment because he'd listened to audio recordings the day before his testimony.

Gendreau also told the court he wasn't in favour of one-man crews on a train, a practice implemented shortly before the derailment.

"I don't know anyone in my immediate surroundings at work who was in favour of this."

Gendreau is expected to resume his cross-examination Thursday.


  • A previous version of this story reported the three defendants are charged with 47 counts each of criminal negligence causing death — one count for each person who died in the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster. In fact, prior to the trial, the Crown simplified the charge to a single count each of criminal negligence causing 47 deaths. The change has no bearing on the criteria used by the jury to render its verdict or on the possible sentence.
    Jan 15, 2018 5:58 PM ET