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New charges in Lac-Megantic derailment

MONTREAL—The federal government has laid a host of new criminal charges in relation to the deadly 2013 train crash in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic that killed 47 people.

The charges were laid by Transport Canada and Environment Canada for alleged violations of the Railway Safety Act and the Fisheries Act.

An official with Transport Canada told the Star that the charges were filed against both individuals and companies with alleged responsibility for the incident.

The identities of those charged, however, were not immediately available.

The Railway Safety Act charges related to findings that not enough handbrakes were set when the train was parked and left unattended at about 11 p.m. on the night of July 5, 2013, just hours before the crash.

An investigation by the Transportation Safety Board revealed that one of the locomotive’s engines caught fire after the train was parked for a shift change. Firefighters who responded to the blaze shut down the locomotive’s engine, which resulted in the release of pressure from the air-braking system. The 72-car train reached speeds for more than 100-kilometres-an-hour when it barrelled into town just after 1 a.m. on July 6, jumped the railway tracks and exploded.

The Fisheries Act charges relate to the crude oil and other substances that leaked into the nearby lake and the Chaudière River, contaminating the water and killing fish.

A large swath of the soil in downtown Lac-Megantic was also contaminated, leading many residents to lose their homes and entrepreneurs to lose their businesses.

Already, three employees of the now-defunct Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, including train engineer Tom Harding, are each facing 47 charges of criminal negligence causing death. The company itself is also charged, and could face monetary penalties if convicted.

Earlier this month, the families of the victims of the train derailment also voted in favour of a $ 435-million settlement in a class-action lawsuit. The settlement would reportedly result in families of the 47 people killed, as well as that of a firefighter who later took his own life, receiving payments of between $ 400,000 and $ 5 million.