DERBY, Maine — The locomotive that led the Maine train that killed 47 people in Quebec last year will likely be withheld from an auction next month at the request of Quebec provincial police, officials said Thursday.
Sûreté du Québec officials must preserve the locomotive for pending court actions, said attorney Robert Keach, trustee for the estate of bankrupt Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway of Hermon. The estate and others involved will honor the request if certain conditions are met, he said.
“Their point is that it might be evidence,” Keach said Thursday. “There is also a duty to provide evidence to defense counsel in the law on both sides [in Canada and the U.S.]. I think they are concerned about that as well.”
Quebec police arrested Thomas Harding, the engineer and train driver, and two other train workers — Jean Demaitre and Richard Labrie — on May 12. They each were charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death.
The same charges were made against the railway company, which filed for bankruptcy protection last year. No individual executives were named.
The locomotive to be auctioned was unmanned when the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway oil-carrying train rolled downhill and exploded in Lac-Megantic on July 6, 2013. It was not significantly damaged.
The disaster forced the railroad into bankruptcy. Several civil lawsuits have been filed in Canada and the U.S. against the bankrupt railroad, including one from the government of Quebec for $409 million for the cleanup and reconstruction in Lac-Megantic.
A judge in bankruptcy court in Bangor approved several motions on Thursday, including one that would allow the auction to proceed.
Quebec police, the MMA estate and Bangor Savings Bank, which is holding the auction to recoup a loan made to MMA, must agree on, among other things, the storage and insurance costs carried by the locomotive and who will pay them, said Keach, who didn’t see that as a huge problem.
The American equipment auction will be held at the former MMA railyard in Derby, near Milo, on Aug. 5. An advertisement from Adam’s Auction and Real Estate Services published before the request listed 32 locomotives for auction.
Some of the equipment to be auctioned belonged to MMA parent company Rail World Inc., Keach said.
Calls to auctioneer Adam Jokisch and Robert Hahn, whom Keach identified as the attorneys representing Bangor Savings, were not immediately returned on Thursday.
Central Maine and Quebec Railway closed on its purchase of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway’s U.S. assets in May. Sale of the Canadian assets of the former railway closed on June 30. Central Maine and Quebec paid a total of $15.85 million for all the assets. Central Maine officials referred comment on the auction to Keach.
Bangor Daily News Writer Darren Fishell contributed to this report.