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Is Burkhardt's talk on Lac-Mégantic too blunt?

Categories: Canada, Community


Edward Burkhardt, the head of the company whose rail tankers filled with oil exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Que., has been blunt when speaking with reporters about the incident.

Burkhardt has said:

  • "I doubt track man or dispatcher realized air brakes would release at that moment the air pressure not being maintained ... Had people been aware it probably still would have been too late to do anything about."
  • "In the hindsight of a tragic accident you can say there was a mistake in the whole rail industry, coast to coast in two nations ... What we've done is totally consistent with the way it's been done in other railways everywhere."
  • "I think we blew it on this instance. We blew it big time. This is awful. It's absolutely awful and very emotional to me when there are deaths and people out of their homes."
  • "One of the problems we have is that the governmental safety authorities have completely pre-empted the investigation and there are people we'd like to talk to that we can't talk to because they're spending their time with the government people."
  • "I don't think he'll be back working with us." This comment referred to the currently suspended engineer who was responsible for the derailed train.
  • "I think we had quite a reasonable safety record until the other day when we blew it all."

The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway board chairman's comments have elicited strong reactions from CBC readers.

Burkhardt "has about the same compassion one would expect from a rock," wrote forest grump. "Having said that, Burkhardt is being very real about the whole situation. What is done, is done. And no amount of apologizing, finger pointing or making excuses in the world is going to change that."

"The CEO jumping the gun and laying responsibility solely on the shoulders of the engineer is just wrong," wrote meadow muffin.

Herbycon sympathized with Burkhardt's position:

"When I saw Mr. Burckhardt on television, I was at first angry and then sad to the point that I felt sorry for him. He is obviously not a great charmer who wins people over easily. He came across as a sincere man though, who thankfully had never been in a position where he had to defend his company towards people who lost loved ones. In other words: He does not know the rules of public relations. In my opinion he feels as devastated as anyone else about this disaster, but can not really express his sentiments well. That does not make him a bad person."

(This poll represents the replies of and is not scientific.)
What do you think of Burkhardt's response to the train derailment?

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