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Not guilty verdict in Canada train disaster trial

Much of the centre of Lac-Megantic was destroyed.

Three men on trial for criminal negligence after a 2013 train derailment that killed 47 people in the Canadian province of Quebec have all been found not guilty.

The jury of eight men and four women reached the verdict on Friday after nine days of deliberations.

A runaway train carrying crude oil from North Dakota derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec and exploded on July 6, 2013, levelling much of the town centre.

Engineer Tom Harding and former colleagues Richard Labrie and Jean Demaitre each faced one count of criminal negligence causing the death of 47 people. They pleaded not guilty.

Labrie was the traffic controller and Demaitre was the manager of train operations.

The prosecution argued that Harding played a significant role in the accident because he did not apply a sufficient number of brakes or test them to ensure they worked properly after leaving the train for the night in nearby Nantes, Quebec.

That left the locomotive resting precariously on a slope six  miles away from Lac-Megantic.

The prosecution also blamed Labrie and Demaitre, arguing their responsibilities included taking the necessary steps to avoid injuries and loss of life the night before the derailment.

The prosecution claimed neither man checked with Harding to see how many handbrakes had been applied and whether tests had been conducted.

One of Harding’s lawyers said the rail disaster was an accident resulting from a perfect storm of unforeseeable events.

“We can’t hold people criminally responsible for not being perfect,” Charles Shearson told the court during the trial.

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