Lac-Megantic gathers to remember fatal train derailment of a year ago

Mayor Colette Roy Laroche said her council had to make a hard choice when it decided to continue to allow trains to run through Lac-Megantic, which one year ago this weekend was devastated by a derailment that killed 47 people.

LAC-MEGANTIC, Que. — Mayor Colette Roy Laroche said her council had to make a hard choice when it decided to continue to allow trains to run through Lac-Megantic, which one year ago this weekend was devastated by a derailment that killed 47 people.

“The municipal council juggled between reason and emotion but chose the survival of the local and regional community,” Roy Laroche told a news conference on the eve of ceremonies marking the one-year anniversary of the July 6, 2013, tragedy.

Lac-Megantic, which was built around the railroad, grabbed worldwide attention when a train loaded with volatile fuel oil careened off its tracks as it barrelled through town and exploded.

A large section of the town was destroyed in a series of explosions and fireballs that were picked up in satellite images from space.

While the tragedy is still keenly felt in the community of about 6,000, Roy Laroche said she feels the weekend’s events are important to help people move forward.

“The commemoration events . . . are an important step, an important step to make peace with this tragedy, to also find our serenity,” she said Friday. “There will be difficult moments, I know, but also moments where we come together as a community.”

Included in the events will be the planting of flowers by Roy Laroche and a group of local children as well as the release of a flock of butterflies.

A number of musical and social events will also be held.

A midnight mass followed by the vigil will complete Saturday’s activities.

On Sunday, dignitaries including Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard will join families and Lac-Megantic residents for a commemorative mass followed by the dedication of a monument and a procession.

Rev. Steve Lemay, the parish priest, said the Ste-Agnes Church and its statue of Jesus had become icons of determination in the community. A photo of the statue, its arms outstretched amid the fireballs of the July 6 explosions, had circulated around the world when the tragedy happened.

“Because of its location, the church became a powerful symbol of resiliance,” Lemay told a news conference. “It stood up before the tragedy and it is for us an an example of people living through this ordeal, of standing up in front of the difficulties.”

The day will wrap up with a concert.

Many people say they will skip the events as they continue to cope with the trauma.

The clinical co-ordinator for psychosocial assistance in the region has said her team treated 423 people in the Lac-Megantic area during the last 10 months.

Those interventions included 188 group and 2,035 individual therapy sessions.

Among the complaints were anxiety, flashbacks and a “terrible fear” of the area’s train tracks.

The disaster sparked a hard look at rail safety by the government.

The federal government pledged to pull all old tank cars, known as DOT-111s, off Canada’s rails during the next few years. The pledge involves removing up to 5,000 of the rupture-prone tankers from the tracks within a month.

The Transportation Safety Board also recommended that dangerous goods should not be left unattended on a main track and also that rail equipment be properly secured.

The Railway Association of Canada, a group that represents rail companies, says the industry is committed to do what is required in the areas of safety, training and emergency preparedness to prevent another disaster like the one that occurred in Lac Megantic.

It says the rail industry in North America is spending $2.5 billion this year to ensure the safety of its infrastructure.

The town is slowly rebuilding, although business people have said that government cash is slow in coming.

The federal and provincial government had pledged millions of dollars each to help in the recovery effort.

As well, Quebec prosecutors have laid 47 charges of criminal negligence causing death against the rail company and three of its employees. Train engineer Thomas Harding, railway traffic controller Richard Labrie and manager of train operations Jean Demaitre were all charged.

Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, which had filed for bankruptcy protection, was sold in a closed-door auction in January for $15.85 million. The buyer was later revealed to be Railroad Acquisition Holdings, an affiliate of New York-based Fortress Investment Group.

Just Posted

Women’s marches underway in Canadian cities, a year after Trump inauguration

Women are gathering in dozens of communities across the country today to… Continue reading

Red Deer councillor balks at city getting stuck with more funding responsibilities

Volunteer Central seeks municipal funding after being cut off by government

Olds chicken barn burns to the ground, no livestock harmed

More than 100,000 chickens were saved as fire crews prevent the blaze from spreading

Bear video meant to promote conservation: zoo owner

Discovery Wildlife Park says it will look at other ways to promote its conservation message

WATCH: Setters Place grand opening in Red Deer

Red Deer’s Setters Place officially opened to the public Saturday afternoon.… Continue reading

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month