Lac-Mégantic families approve $435M compensation package

Families of victims of the Lac-Mégantic train disaster have voted unanimously in favour of the final settlement package that was presented to them today.

Fund bolstered by recent addition from oil company

The compensation package for victims of the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster now totals $435 million after an oil company recently added $130 million. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Families of victims of the Lac-Mégantic train disaster involved in a class-action lawsuit voted unanimously in favour of the settlement package presented to them on Tuesday.

The total package is now worth nearly $435 million, some of which will be distributed among the families of the 47 victims of the disaster, as well as the family of a firefighter who committed suicide shortly afterward, according to the legal team representing the claimants.

They will receive anywhere between $400,000 to $5 million, depending on the family situation.

More than half of the total compensation will be used to pay back the federal, provincial and municipal governments, as well as to cover legal fees.

Daniel Pépin, one of the claimants, said he's relieved the settlement process is nearly done. He said many people could not have held on much longer.

"We can start to think about other things," he said, after votes were cast at Lac-Megantic's sports centre, only steps away from the train tracks. 

"It's a big step."

Much of Lac-Mégantic's downtown area was destroyed when an unattended train with dozens of oil tanker cars derailed on July 6, 2013.

Around 500 people also took part in a class-action suit seeking damages for physical injuries or psychological trauma.

Residents have until Aug. 31 to take part in that portion of the settlement.

Settlement bolstered

The settlement was bolstered yesterday when World Fuel Services announced it was adding $135 million to the package.

World Fuel Services is the broker that sold the oil that was in the tanker cars. It was criticized for poorly identifying the product in the train cars.

Irving Oil, the Montreal Maine and Atlantic Canada Co., its insurance carrier, railcar manufacturers and some oil producers had already contributed to compensation packages.

People who have received physical or psychological injuries will also be compensated, as will home and business owners whose properties were destroyed by the fire.

Canadian Pacific Railway is the only company named in the class-action lawsuit that has refused to pay into the compensation fund.

A spokesman for CP says the company believes the victims of the derailment deserve compensation, but says it's not responsible for what happened.

"The company contends that it's not among the parties responsible for the incident, the train was not operated by CP employees or travelling on CP tracks, nor were our locomotives, our railcars or product involved in the derailment," Martin Cej said.

"But as the matter remains before the courts, CP has no further comment beyond that."

The company will be facing lawyers for the victims' families in court next week.

With files from The Canadian Press


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