Three men have been found not guilty of criminal negligence causing death in the Lac-Megantic railway disaster that killed 47 people.
Tom Harding, Richard Labrie and Jean Demaitre, were all found not guilty on Friday in connection with the deadly tragedy in July 2013 when a runaway train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Que.
Harding was also found not guilty of dangerous operation of railway equipment and of dangerous operation of railway equipment causing death.
The three men had pleaded not guilty when the trial started on Oct. 2, 2017, in Sherbrooke, Que., which is around 100 kilometres from Lac-Megantic. Jury deliberations started on Jan. 11, 2018.
The verdict comes three days after the jury told Quebec Superior Court Justice Gaetan Dumas they were at an impasse. Dumas sent them back into deliberations, with the clarifications that they did not have to reach a verdict on all three, saying they could deliver a verdict on one or two of the accused.
“Even though I never spoke, I always thought of you,” Richard Labrie said, his voice cracking. “I would like to say that Lac-Megantic residents, with what they had to go through, showed us a lot of courage and help and lots of resilience.
“I wasn’t expecting to cry. (The ordeal) was hard, it was long, but now it’s finished. I just hope we can easily turn the page and slip back into the anonymity that was ours before July 5, 2013.”
“Mr. Harding is too moved by the situation to give a coherent expression of what he feels inside,” defence lawyer Thomas Walsh said.
“But I know he feels terribly relieved and terribly thankful to the system, the jury system, and this jury in particular.”
Crown prosecutor Veronique Beauchamp said it is too early to say there will be an appeal.
“You’ll understand it is not necessarily the decision we were expecting but we respect the verdicts that were handed down and, especially, the work the jurors put in,” Beauchamp said.