Accused engineer Tom Harding wasn't told of problem with locomotive, Lac-Mégantic trial hears
‘Could I have done something more?’ witness François Daigle says he still asks himself
Former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) locomotive engineer François Daigle told the court he knew there was a mechanical problem with the locomotive at the front of the train that derailed in Lac-Mégantic when it left the station on July 5, 2013, but he didn't tell the person who operated it.
Daigle stood in the witness box at the Sherbrooke courthouse for a fourth day on Tuesday, at times visibly shaken, repeatedly telling the defence he didn't remember many of the elements pertaining to the days leading up to the disaster.
Daigle said he reported a problem with the 5017, the lead locomotive of the train that later derailed, hours before it left for Lac-Mégantic.
But when his supervisor did nothing, he didn't tell anyone else about the problem.
Daigle's fellow locomotive engineer, Thomas Harding, 56, as well as operations manager Jean Demaître, 53, and controller Richard Labrie, 59, are each charged with criminal negligence causing 47 deaths in connection with the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster.
Under cross-examination by Demaître's lawyer, Gaétan Bourassa, Daigle told Superior Court Justice Gaétan Dumas and the 14-member jury that before Harding left for Lac- Mégantic with the convoy of crude oil tankers, Daigle saw him but didn't mention the mechanical problems on the head locomotive.
"I remember I came across [Harding] in the cafeteria," he said.
"He told you he was doing the fuel train?" asked Bourassa.
"Yes." said Daigle. "I didn't mention the 5017 [locomotive] to Tom."
"Did you think to yourself, 'If I had said something to Harding?'" asked Bourassa,
"Yes. I feel guilty," Daigle said. "I've often wondered if I could've done something."
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Problems with all MMA locomotives
Daigle told the court there were problems with all the MMA locomotives regularly, but nothing was ever done about it.
He said he sat on the company's health and safety committee, made up of employees from Quebec and supervisors from the U.S., but he acknowledged he never brought up the issues with locomotives.
The employee who inspected the locomotive the morning before the derailment succeeded Daigle in the witness box.
Yves Gendreau, 42, is a former rolling stock inspector at MMA, and the 13th Crown witness to testify at the trial.
Gendreau testified he inspected locomotive 5017 on July 5, 2013.
"What did you notice about the locomotive that morning during the inspection," asked prosecutor Marie-Éve Phaneuf."
"There was nothing specific to repair on these locomotives, everything seemed okay," he said.
Gendreau is expected to continue his testimony Wednesday.
- 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 5:50 PM ET