Delay in approval of settlement fund for victims of Lac-Megantic rail disaster

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PORTLAND, Maine — Final approval of a massive settlement for victims of the 2013 train derailment in Lac-Megantic, Que., has been delayed.

The delay is to provide time for the only party that’s opposed to the fund to either join in the settlement or negotiate terms to withdraw its objection.

A U.S. bankruptcy judge ordered the parties Thursday to reconvene Oct. 5, and Robert Keach, the court-appointed monitor for Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway’s bankruptcy proceedings in the United States, is confident the settlement will be confirmed.

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MMA is the railway that was at the heart of the disaster that killed 47 people when a runaway train with 72 oil tankers derailed on July 6, 2013 and wiped out much of downtown Lac-Megantic.

Keach said the settlement was worth $450 million as of Wednesday but that the figure would fluctuate over the next few weeks.

The agreement was the issue of negotiations with about two dozen companies.

The only party with potential liability that declined to participate is Canadian Pacific, which contends it wasn’t treated fairly under the deal.

At a court hearing in Canada earlier this year, a lawyer for CP said the disaster did not involve the company’s tracks, rail cars, products or employees.

MMA, train driver Tom Harding, railway traffic controller Richard Labrie and Jean Demaitre, the manager of train operations, have all been charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death.

Harding’s lawyer has said he doesn’t expect a trial to begin before the fall of 2016.

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The case is proceeding under a preferred indictment, with no preliminary hearing.

A charge of criminal negligence carries a maximum sentence of life in prison upon conviction.

The charges were laid in May 2014 following a Quebec provincial police investigation into the derailment.

 

The Associated Press

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