August 23, 2019
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Judge to decide whether victims of Quebec train explosion have voice in bankruptcy proceedings

Mathieu Belanger | REUTERS
Mathieu Belanger | REUTERS
The remains of a burnt train are seen in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in this July 8, 2013 file photo.

BANGOR, Maine — A federal bankruptcy judge considered Tuesday pending motions in the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway bankruptcy, including one that would allow victims of the devastating crash in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada, that left 47 dead to be represented in the proceedings.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Louis Kornreich is expected to decide whether an unofficial committee will be created that would allow survivors along with the Province of Quebec and the town of Lac-Megantic to have a voice. The committee could seek compensation for the victims. Other motions he dealt with Tuesday included a plan to fund the continued operation of the Hermon-based railroad and one that would fund administrative costs without taking money from victims and their families.

Although Kornreich heard oral arguments on four motions, he granted one and took the rest under advisement. The judge granted the motion that will allow the railroad to operate through Oct. 11. Last week, the Canadian Transportation Agency gave the railroad permission to continue operating through Oct. 18, according to a previously published report.

A document filed Monday by attorneys representing victims of the accident includes statements from residents of the small, rural community about the effect the crash of the runaway train and subsequent fire has had on them and their families.

The statements were gathered from more than 200 people seeking to join a class action lawsuit filed in court in Canada against Western Petroleum Co., World Fuel Service, Petroleum Transportation Solutions and MMA’s parent company Rail World Inc., all of Chicago, along with Dakota Petroleum Transportation Solutions, DPTS Marketing LLC and Dakota Plains Marketing, all of Minnesota, Irving Oil Co., of New Brunswick, Canada, and XL Insurance Co. Ltd. of Dublin, Ireland.

Individuals affected by the disaster, who are identified in court documents by their first names and their initial of their last names, cited stress, headaches, insomnia, fear and other health problems. Some also said they have lost their jobs, homes and businesses.

“Fear, anxiety, stress of having been evacuated from my home, loss of my family and my friends that I will never see again,” Gaetane L. said. “A lot of difficulty to have a normal life and I am obligated to make a big detour for my work. It has disrupted my life every day.”

Celine T, who owned a commercial building with four residential units in which three people died in the blaze, said she lost property, wages, business, tenants and friends and now feels insecure about her future.

“Now, we feel after this tragedy from the long night of July 6, the rage, anger, sadness, wounds, scars that will take a long time to heal. Our heart is [in] ashes like our downtown,” she said. “I am proud to be ‘Megantiquoise’ of Lac-Megantic [and] we need to keep hope for a future. We will never forget this tragedy, the loss of our citizens and the loss of our downtown.”

If Kornreich were to create a committee, the Office of U.S. Bankruptcy Trustees would decide who could be represented on it and appoint its members.

A separate wrongful death lawsuit representing relatives of 42 of the 47 people who died has been filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Motions to move that litigation to Maine are pending before U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen.

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