Teen faces victims of N.S. train wreck

N.S. teen apologizes to passengers for causing derailment that injured dozens

A 15-year-old boy who admitted causing a train derailment that injured dozens of people in Nova Scotia apologized to some of the passengers Thursday.

The forum, not open to the public, was intended to give victims a say in the teen's punishment. Recommendations will be passed on to a judge at a sentencing hearing Oct. 2.

The boy, whose identity is protected by law because of his age, has pleaded guilty to mischief endangering life. He faces a maximum penalty of three years in custody.

He told them that he never intended to derail the train, but simply wanted to get the lock that was on the switch.

Fred Coyle, a passenger who was injured on the train, said the emotional meeting was good for victims and the young offender.

"In one way he's been able to apologize and in another way he's also had to listen to our stories," said Coyle.

A VIA Rail train roared off the tracks and crashed into a feed store in Stewiacke, N.S. in April 2001. Authorities said a switch had been tampered with and they arrested a boy a few days later.

The teen, 13 at the time, originally denied the accusations but later pleaded guilty to mischief endangering life as part of a deal to have a charge of criminal negligence causing bodily harm dropped.

Thursday's forum is part of Nova Scotia's "restorative justice" system. It's been used in hundreds of cases in the province in the past few years. Victims can ask a judge to impose everything from restitution or community service to jail time.

"It's an opportunity for the young person to stand accountable and for victims to be heard and participate and play an active role in the justice process," said Pat Gorham, a co-ordinator of the program.