News Wire: Lac-Mégantic disaster trial enters fourth week

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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, December 07, 2017 12:36 PM

In the case of this locomotive, the smoke and oil drops were severe enough to indicate a major problem.  And indeed a hole in the cylinder head and a non-working valve are major problems.  Before you commented, did you read the whole thread and the report?

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, December 07, 2017 1:19 PM

daveklepper
In the case of this locomotive, the smoke and oil drops were severe enough to indicate a major problem.  And indeed a hole in the cylinder head and a non-working valve are major problems.  Before you commented, did you read the whole thread and the report?

The state the locomotive was found in after the incident, was not the state the locomotive was dispatched from origin in nor was it the state the Mr. Harding left it in at Nantes when he went to the loding facility - it was not on fire at origin or during the trip nor when Mr. Harding left in the taxi for lodging.

Yes the engine had issues when dispatched, it had issues during the prior trip and probably several trips prior to that.  The issues didn't become 'terminal' until after Mr. Harding left the engine at Nantes.

         

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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, December 07, 2017 1:47 PM

Obviously the fire affected the state of the locomotive, and there my have been some change between Harding's departure and the onset of the fire.  Or perhaps the only change then was added exterior oil build-up and higher temperature near the exhaust stack.   But I saw no other evidence in the report or testimony to substantiate any real change between dispatch and when Harding left it.  If I am in error, please point me in the right direction for correction.

The locomotive was clearly earmarked for a shop visit before it was dispatched with Tom Harding as engineer.  And your "probably several trips before that" is in error.   Read Randy's posts and his testimony.  MM&A's locomotives looked shabby but were mechanically sound.

If the shop had been open on 4 July, the locomotive would have been inside and not been dispatched.  And Tom Harding's failure to secure the train properly would have been overlooked for another time.

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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, December 07, 2017 1:58 PM

In any case, this is a rediculous argument.  The engine was tagged to go to the shop.  It did not because of the holiday.  I simply say that its use when others were available was one more evidence of a lack of safety-first culture.  I do not say it absolves Harding of failure to properly secure the train.  If you say it is not evidence of a lack of safety culture, I can accept that as your experienced railroader's opinion while keeping my own opinion.  If you say that MM&A had a Safety-First culture, then and only then do we really have an argument.

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Posted by BigJim on Thursday, December 07, 2017 2:37 PM

You guys keep bringing up this smoke screen about the defective unit. Quit worrying about that daxn unit!

Don't you realize that if the engineer had made a 20lb. reduction on the automatic brake, that train would have still been up there when the next crew arrived! Apparently, you can blame that one on the MM&A rules!!!

.

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Posted by Randy Stahl on Thursday, December 07, 2017 4:32 PM

2

daveklepper

Obviously the fire affected the state of the locomotive, and there my have been some change between Harding's departure and the onset of the fire.  Or perhaps the only change then was added exterior oil build-up and higher temperature near the exhaust stack.   But I saw no other evidence in the report or testimony to substantiate any real change between dispatch and when Harding left it.  If I am in error, please point me in the right direction for correction.

The locomotive was clearly earmarked for a shop visit before it was dispatched with Tom Harding as engineer.  And your "probably several trips before that" is in error.   Read Randy's posts and his testimony.  MM&A's locomotives looked shabby but were mechanically sound.

If the shop had been open on 4 July, the locomotive would have been inside and not been dispatched.  And Tom Harding's failure to secure the train properly would have been overlooked for another time.

 

The locomotive was 230 miles away from the shop...

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Posted by Euclid on Thursday, December 07, 2017 5:49 PM

It would be interesting to know exactly what is going on in this trial because the news reporting makes it seem like the bulk of negligence in this disaster lies with MM&A rather than with Harding.  I am getting the impression that the trial is going that way, and that Harding will not be convicted of much.  I could be wrong, though.   

This linked article contains a very interesting exchange between Harding’s lawyer and the expert witness for the Crown.  It centers on the lead locomotive having been electrically modified so that when the breakers are opened, it triggers a penalty application of brakes.  Only the lead locomotive in the consist was wired this way.  The other four were wired as originally manufactured so that if the firemen had shut down any of those other four engines (had they been running), that would have triggered a penalty air brake application which would have prevented the disaster. 

It would really be interesting to hear what the company had to say about this in the trial.  It is fully detailed in this report:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/lac-megantic-trial-locomotive-5017-retrofitted-1.4422093

The expert witness told the court that trains have a backup defense mechanism called a penalty brake, in which all air brakes are automatically applied to the whole train if the engine is shut down. 

The expert witness explained that the wiring diagrams for each locomotive revealed that locomotive 5017 (the one that led the oil train) was retrofitted and wired in such a way that the penalty brake application did not come on when the breakers had been shut off.

Justice Dumas asked if that was standard.  The expert witness confirmed that locomotive #5017 was wired opposite of the standard.  He replied to Justice Dumas by saying that the standard is that when the breakers are shut off, the penalty application activates.   

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, December 07, 2017 5:57 PM

I seem to remember a discussion, years ago, about the number of 'dead power assemblies' that UP tolerated before physically bad-ordering a unit in service as part of a consist.  It was a surprisingly large number, like 3 or 4.  Presumably this reflected 'dead' non- or mis-firing cylinders, not things like broken injector tips, holed pistons, or turbo seal failures; perhaps it also reflects work by the mechanical department to check on the reason for the misfire.

I have not yet read what the supposed reason for sending the fax about 5017 was, or what the actual substance of that fax was.  Of considerable importance though is that Randy, despite having given his cell number as available, and perhaps being willing to jump on a helicopter support flight, received no calls expressing a particular sense of emergency from the Quebecois -- not on the 4th, not when the engine started smoking, not when it caught fire.  I for one would let the head of maintenance know stat that a locomotive was in the condition the 5017 was at arrival at Nantes, let alone after it caught fire and had to be shut down.

We still have a bit to wait on, concerning the approximate time of the complete failure in #5 cylinder, which I, personally, think happened at some time Harding was running the train.  As previously noted, the TSB report seemed to assume that the valve-gear failure that dropped the valve was at least partly the result of high temperatures in that area, whereas it may be more likely the evidence of high temperatures followed the gas through the hole where the failed stem had been.  It may be possible that the fire destroyed some of the differential forensic evidence that could establish that.  (Note that there are two 'holes' here, if I understand the situation correctly: one in the piston crown, and one constituting the valve guide through the cylinder head, communicating with the valve deck, that opened up when the valve head went into the hole in the piston.)

Aside from the prima facie failure to inform Randy, it is still a mystery to me where Harding thought all that oil blowing out of 5017 when he stopped was coming from.  Am I wrong to think that it would have been diligent to check the engine oil level at around the time he was shutting down the other units ... and relay what I'd consider an alarmingly low unit oil level to Farnham when they instructed him to keep the 5017 running?

None of this helps me understand how, let alone why, Harding did not do a pull test as required, with the independent off.  He did not see anything wrong even as late as the call from Labrie as Lac Megantic was burning -- when he said with some amazement yes! seven brakes! as if that were an actual number specified to hold the train, rather than a starting value before doing a proper pull test. 

As far as I can see, the practice, such as it was, of using a minimum 'securement by the numbers' followed by going through the motions of a pull test without releasing the independent was restricted to the Quebecois contingent of engineers.  How it got started, and how it was tolerated after it did, is I think something for the Quebecois contingent to answer (and answer for).  I have seen no evidence it was something the MM&A 'safety department' allowed in its rules, or taught as a permissible practice.  I continue to be interested in reading the trial transcript to see what the testimony reveals.

 

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, December 07, 2017 6:05 PM

Euclid
It centers on the lead locomotive having been electrically modified so that when the breakers are opened, it triggers a penalty application of brakes.

Not as interesting as they hoped you'd think.

Did you not read anything about this, or comprehend just what the OSV valves do (and why the MM&A might rewire or gag them NOT to drop the automatic brake when shut down as part of a normal fuel-saving measure on the carrier?)

The characteristic of the OSV dropping out with the main breakers opened was less a 'safety' measure than an artifact of how GE wired the device.  You might want to ask Randy point by point via PM why each of the units tested had a slightly different wiring change; none of that would change the fundamental point that an overspeed penalty trip device is not a 'smoking gun' device if its cutout cocks are closed to prevent undesired automatic application when units are shut down on the road.

It did take me a few minutes to comprehend just what valves were involved here, as I'd originally thought (really, from the language in the TSB report) that GE had built safety devices that applied the emergency whenever a locomotive lost power.  That turns out not to be the case, and I am a bit surprised that a supposed 'expert' looking at the wiring and the diagrams did not realize that.

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Posted by Randy Stahl on Thursday, December 07, 2017 6:14 PM

 

Euclid

It would be interesting to know exactly what is going on in this trial because the news reporting makes it seem like the bulk of negligence in this disaster lies with MM&A rather than with Harding.  I am getting the impression that the trial is going that way, and that Harding will not be convicted of much.  I could be wrong, though.   

This linked article contains a very interesting exchange between Harding’s lawyer and the expert witness for the Crown.  It centers on the lead locomotive having been electrically modified so that when the breakers are opened, it triggers a penalty application of brakes.  Only the lead locomotive in the consist was wired this way.  The other four were wired as originally manufactured so that if the firemen had shut down any of those other four engines (had they been running), that would have triggered a penalty air brake application which would have prevented the disaster. 

It would really be interesting to hear what the company had to say about this in the trial.  It is fully detailed in this report:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/lac-megantic-trial-locomotive-5017-retrofitted-1.4422093

The expert witness told the court that trains have a backup defense mechanism called a penalty brake, in which all air brakes are automatically applied to the whole train if the engine is shut down. 

The expert witness explained that the wiring diagrams for each locomotive revealed that locomotive 5017 (the one that led the oil train) was retrofitted and wired in such a way that the penalty brake application did not come on when the breakers had been shut off.

Justice Dumas asked if that was standard.  The expert witness confirmed that locomotive #5017 was wired opposite of the standard.  He replied to Justice Dumas by saying that the standard is that when the breakers are shut off, the penalty application activates.   

 

Callahan doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. The alertor system is designed and periodcally tested for proper operation on a MANNED train. He would have them believe that the alertor penalty is an acceptable alternative train securement practice.

The wiring was done by the BN, not the MMA.

When 5017 was shut down the battery switch was pulled, the breakers were left on. A fact Callahan forgot.

When Callahan testified for the prosecution he admitted he was not a mechanical expert, he should have stuck with that.

The TSB report was not allowed as evidence, I could make no reference to it.

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Posted by Euclid on Thursday, December 07, 2017 6:19 PM

Overmod
 
Euclid
It centers on the lead locomotive having been electrically modified so that when the breakers are opened, it triggers a penalty application of brakes.

 

Not as interesting as they hoped you'd think.

Did you not read anything about this, or comprehend just what the OSV valves do (and why the MM&A might rewire or gag them NOT to drop the automatic brake when shut down as part of a normal fuel-saving measure on the carrier?)

The characteristic of the OSV dropping out with the main breakers opened was less a 'safety' measure than an artifact of how GE wired the device.  You might want to ask Randy point by point via PM why each of the units tested had a slightly different wiring change; none of that would change the fundamental point that an overspeed penalty trip device is not a 'smoking gun' device if its cutout cocks are closed to prevent undesired automatic application when units are shut down on the road.

It did take me a few minutes to comprehend just what valves were involved here, as I'd originally thought (really, from the language in the TSB report) that GE had built safety devices that applied the emergency whenever a locomotive lost power.  That turns out not to be the case, and I am a bit surprised that a supposed 'expert' looking at the wiring and the diagrams did not realize that.

 

That is all interesting, but it is really beside the point I was making, which is only about how this matter was reported to have been handled in the trial.  For all I know, some other expert was called and totally discredited the idea that there was any signifcance to the fact that engine had been rewired to not make the penalty application upon being shut down.  But the news article did not report any such rebuttal. 

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Posted by Randy Stahl on Thursday, December 07, 2017 6:45 PM

Euclid

 

 
Overmod
 
Euclid
It centers on the lead locomotive having been electrically modified so that when the breakers are opened, it triggers a penalty application of brakes.

 

Not as interesting as they hoped you'd think.

Did you not read anything about this, or comprehend just what the OSV valves do (and why the MM&A might rewire or gag them NOT to drop the automatic brake when shut down as part of a normal fuel-saving measure on the carrier?)

The characteristic of the OSV dropping out with the main breakers opened was less a 'safety' measure than an artifact of how GE wired the device.  You might want to ask Randy point by point via PM why each of the units tested had a slightly different wiring change; none of that would change the fundamental point that an overspeed penalty trip device is not a 'smoking gun' device if its cutout cocks are closed to prevent undesired automatic application when units are shut down on the road.

It did take me a few minutes to comprehend just what valves were involved here, as I'd originally thought (really, from the language in the TSB report) that GE had built safety devices that applied the emergency whenever a locomotive lost power.  That turns out not to be the case, and I am a bit surprised that a supposed 'expert' looking at the wiring and the diagrams did not realize that.

 

 

 

That is all interesting, but it is really beside the point I was making, which is only about how this matter was reported to have been handled in the trial.  For all I know, some other expert was called and totally discredited the idea that there was any signifcance to the fact that engine had been rewired to not make the penalty application upon being shut down.  But the news article did not report any such rebuttal. 

 

It was not in the best interest of the crown to discredit thier own expert. I understood this. 

When I was first approached about the trial the crown prosecutors met me at my locomotive shop. They had an opportunity to see the same engines that were in the 5017 being taken apart and put back together. I met them there at my shop instead of FBI headquarters so they could see firsthand the equipment.

Although I did not rebutt most of the testimony from Callahan I did establish my years and experience to the jury  and simply told the jury that the 5017 was in safe and serviceable condition before the power assembly failure. I think I ended up with a lot more credability that I would have if I had attacked Callahan.

I wasn't called as an expert witness, just a witness with vast experience with the machines. I was afterall, the very last witness and the only American. 

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, December 07, 2017 6:47 PM

Euclid
That is all interesting, but it is really beside the point I was making, which is only about how this matter was reported to have been handled in the trial.

And that is a good point, worthy of note, and I believe a subject that Randy has commented on.  In fact, I believe Randy made that precise point at the trial, and it has not been reported in any news coverage.

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Posted by lenzfamily on Thursday, December 07, 2017 7:32 PM

Randy Stahl

As information , I was under no compulsion to testify. I was not under supeona. 

 

I felt that doing and saying nothing to help the people of Megantic and helping in whatever way could my friends and ex co-workers would make me a morally bad person. I don't wish to live like that so I volunteered to testify for the crown.

I was a horrible thing, just horrible in every way

Randy

 

Good for you Randy! Takes guts (even with your conscience driving you) to do that, volunteer or not, and yes, the witness box is not a great place. There would be a lot of painful remembering, I'm sure.

Charlie

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Posted by Euclid on Thursday, December 07, 2017 8:16 PM

Randy,

I am surprised that the Crown’s expert witness is making a case that defends Harding.  What I see here is Harding being prosecuted and defended.  The most effective defense of Harding is to take the blame off of him and place it on the MM&A.  This effectively puts MM&A on trial. Is anybody in the trial defending MM&A?

I know that you defended the company, but are there technical experts demolishing the technical arguments being made against the MM&A?  I google the trial every day, and I see a near universal premise that MM&A’s unsafe practices caused the disaster.  They are coming at it from every angle.  It seems to me that this is the popular sentiment that is being cultivated in the region.  I wonder what the residents of Lac Megantic would say if they were polled on the question of what caused the disaster. 

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Posted by SD70M-2Dude on Thursday, December 07, 2017 9:20 PM

I don't think anyone is denying that Harding bears the brunt of responsibility here, due to his failure to sufficiently secure the train and then failing to properly test that securement.

But some comments on here would have us believe that Harding is solely responsible, and no factors besides those within his control influenced this tragedy.  That is simply not true, any disaster like this was formed by a chain of critical events, where removing any single link would have averted it.  That is why the TSB report (which I cannot believe was not allowed as evidence at the trial) does not simply blame Harding and end.

Lac-Megantic has profoundly changed Canadian railroading practices, but it was not the first disaster to have such an effect.  30 years ago a westbound CN freight train blew through a red signal and hit VIA's Super Continental head on near Hinton, AB.  23 people were killed.  The immediately obvious cause of the Hinton disaster was the freight crew's failure to obey signal indications, but that was not the end.  The investigation (the now famous inquiry headed by Justice Rene Foisy) delved deep into CN's operations looking for answers. 

What they found was a poor safety culture where rule-breaking was tolerated, if not encouraged by CN management, and a lack of oversight by both management and Transport Canada.  The inquiry did not stop at blaming the freight crew for their actions that day, it attempted to understand why they took them.  Contributing factors to the Hinton disaster included crew fatigue, lack of an alerter on the lead locomotive (the second unit had one) and CN's failure to properly discipline and/or educate the freight's Engineer after repeated infractions.  That Engineer should also have been medically restricted to yard service at the time of the crash, but was not.

By the same standard contributing factors to the Lac-Megantic disaster also need to be taken into consideration when weighing responsibility and punishments.  Harding failed to properly secure the train, but it was MMA's policies which left it unattended atop a hill with the automatic air brakes released.  According to the TSB report Harding was far from the only MMA Engineer who would fail to properly secure unattended trains, which is indicative of poor training and oversight.  Management bears some responsibility for those factors.

And while the Hinton disaster did not result in any criminal prosecutions, the Lac-Megantic jury would be wise to consider its aftermath when deliberating on Harding's fate.  Being in the caboose, the freight train's Conductor survived the wreck and was subsequently fired by CN for his role in the disaster.  But over a year later he was awarded his job back at arbitration.  The final 3 paragraphs of arbitrator Picher's decision are especially relevent here:

http://arbitrations.netfirms.com/croa/20/CR1677.html

And here is the Foisy report in its entirety:

http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2016/bcp-pco/T22-72-1986-1-eng.pdf

Greetings from Alberta

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Posted by SD70M-2Dude on Thursday, December 07, 2017 9:26 PM

And I will end by saying that Harding will always have to live with the knowledge that it was his train that ran away and killed all those people.  Carrying that guilt is far more of a punishment that anything the courts can hand down.

Greetings from Alberta

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Posted by tree68 on Thursday, December 07, 2017 10:06 PM

SD70M-2Dude
But some comments on here would have us believe that Harding is solely responsible, and no factors besides those within his control influenced this tragedy.  That is simply not true, any disaster like this was formed by a chain of critical events, where removing any single link would have averted it.  That is why the TSB report (which I cannot believe was not allowed as evidence at the trial) does not simply blame Harding and end.

I would suggest that the reason that many pointedly note Harding's blame in this incident is because of repeated implications that the blame instead rests virtually completely with others.

Regardless of the contributing factors (for which others, who are not on trial as such, should be rightfully held to account), the fact still remains that one person, and one person alone did not properly secure the train.

 

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, December 07, 2017 10:29 PM

SD70M-2Dude
Being in the caboose, the freight train's Conductor survived the wreck and was subsequently fired by CN for his role in the disaster. But over a year later he was awarded his job back at arbitration.

Ah, but he was not; the Arbitrator being very specific that he would not work as a conductor again.  And the case is very different for Smith than is the case for Harding: Smith was only technically in control of the train, the head-end crew being the people taking the 'action' (or, in this case, likely inaction) that caused the collision.  I would be interested to know the course of Smith's career with CN after his rehire, and whether further action of the watching Administrator proved to be necessary.

 

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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, December 07, 2017 10:41 PM

[quote user="BigJim"]

You guys keep bringing up this smoke screen about the defective unit. Quit worrying about that daxn unit!

Don't you realize that if the engineer had made a 20lb. reduction on the automatic brake, that train would have still been up there when the next crew arrived! Apparently, you can blame that one on the MM&A rules!!!

 

[/quote above]

According to all testimony:  The only way the next crew would have found the train in good condition would have been if the defective locomotive had not been assigned.  If that had occured, Hardings failure would not have even been noticed.  It would have been another routine operation.

If the defective locomotive had been assigned, and Harding had secured the train properly. the fire may have occured, in which case the disaster would not have occoured, but the new crew would have had to deal with a defective locomotive.  Without the fire, the situation would be almost the same, because the locomotive would have shut down without enough oil.

(Possibly smoking locomotives with oil drops in the smoke can be better tolerated as switchers, service where oil is available, than in road service?)

Again, what bringing up the lack of safety culture of MM&A should serve, in m opinion, is not to in any way remove responsibility from Harding but to permit mitigation of the sentence.

Euclid, please consider this when evaluation testimony.  These are all Human Beings.   With feelings.

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Posted by daveklepper on Friday, December 08, 2017 12:05 AM

Regarding, "If he had made an automatic...."   This would be true if the airbrakes would continue to be effective from the time when the locomotive shut down, either because of the fire and the firemen's actions or because of low oil, to the time when the new crew arrived.  Without the operating locomotive, how long would the airbrakes hold?

And Euclid, a criminal case is not the same as a commercial case.  The Government's best interest is served when all facts are available.  Because Randy is a witnesss for the Prosecution, this does not mean he should not bring to light facts that may benefit the Defense.  It is not a question of one side versus the other, but rather that Justice be done.  That is in the Government's best interest.

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Posted by Randy Stahl on Friday, December 08, 2017 4:32 AM

SD70M-2Dude

And I will end by saying that Harding will always have to live with the knowledge that it was his train that ran away and killed all those people.  Carrying that guilt is far more of a punishment that anything the courts can hand down.

 

I agree with this 100%. 

This can NEVER happen again. An opportunity exists for Tom to speak at safety events and push train securement. I cannot think that prison would do the public or the industry any real good.

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Posted by Randy Stahl on Friday, December 08, 2017 5:44 AM

Euclid

Randy,

I am surprised that the Crown’s expert witness is making a case that defends Harding.  What I see here is Harding being prosecuted and defended.  The most effective defense of Harding is to take the blame off of him and place it on the MM&A.  This effectively puts MM&A on trial. Is anybody in the trial defending MM&A?

I know that you defended the company, but are there technical experts demolishing the technical arguments being made against the MM&A?  I google the trial every day, and I see a near universal premise that MM&A’s unsafe practices caused the disaster.  They are coming at it from every angle.  It seems to me that this is the popular sentiment that is being cultivated in the region.  I wonder what the residents of Lac Megantic would say if they were polled on the question of what caused the disaster. 

 

Defending the company wasn't my motivation. I defended only facts and destroyed misconceptions.

Again I can only speak to what I know is true.

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Posted by Euclid on Friday, December 08, 2017 6:39 AM

Randy Stahl
 
Euclid

Randy,

I am surprised that the Crown’s expert witness is making a case that defends Harding.  What I see here is Harding being prosecuted and defended.  The most effective defense of Harding is to take the blame off of him and place it on the MM&A.  This effectively puts MM&A on trial. Is anybody in the trial defending MM&A?

I know that you defended the company, but are there technical experts demolishing the technical arguments being made against the MM&A?  I google the trial every day, and I see a near universal premise that MM&A’s unsafe practices caused the disaster.  They are coming at it from every angle.  It seems to me that this is the popular sentiment that is being cultivated in the region.  I wonder what the residents of Lac Megantic would say if they were polled on the question of what caused the disaster. 

 

 

 

Defending the company wasn't my motivation. I defended only facts and destroyed misconceptions.

Again I can only speak to what I know is true.

 

I understand, and I think you did the right thing.  Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that defending the company is wrong, whether done by you or anyone esle.  Anyone has the right to be defended.

But here is my point.  MM&A and their management is not in court.  They are not a defendant.  But the defense of Harding largely amounts to taking the blame off of his actions and placing it on the larger context of company policy, lack of company safety culture, lack of rules enforcement, lack of preparation for one-man crews, and things like that.  It makes no difference to my point that the company may not be guilty in terms of any of those deficiencies.  The point is that Harding is being defended by shifting blame to the company. So if nobody defends the company and shifts the blame back to Harding, the net result is that Harding's blame will have been reduced by shifting it to the company. 

The company does not have to defend itself because it is not being charged.  However, if nobody defends the company, the prosecution of Harding will weaken as his negligence is shifted to the company.  Therefore the only way to prevent the collapse of Harding's prosecution is to defend the company from being blamed for Harding's negilgence.  So when I asked if anyone was defending MM&A, it pertains to the strategy of prosecuting Harding, and not to a desire to remove the culpability of MM&A, if there is any. 

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Posted by Randy Stahl on Friday, December 08, 2017 7:06 AM

The judge made it clear that he was not going to supeona any Americans.

I think that we must trust the crown prosecution and the jury. They might actually know what they are doing.

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Posted by daveklepper on Friday, December 08, 2017 7:30 AM

I agree, Randy.   Let us take the worst case for the prosecution.  Say it comes out that if he had not been reprimanded, Harding would have secured the train with automatic air.  Now in a previous posting I confused the leak-down of automatic air with that of the indendent, whch is straight air.  From what I know, a train with equipment in reasonably good condition, can stand still on a grade for more than 24 hours after automatic air is applied, before the individual leaks in all the cars start making the brakes ineffective.  So Harding's defense can say, if he had not been repremanded and left alone, the tragedy would not have happened.  And he was not INSTRUCTED in the proper procedure.

But the prosecution can answer:  "Did Harding have rule book?"  (I am sure the MM&A rule book states the standard securement proceedure accurately as in all railroad rulebooks.)  "The fact that it may not have been observed does not diminish Harding's responsibility to observe it."

So I think no matter how much blame is shifted to MM&A, and/or to the other defendents, the fact remains that Harding remains responsible.  But the shifting should produce a great ameliaration of the sentence.  Which is as it should be, in my opinion.

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Posted by BigJim on Friday, December 08, 2017 8:00 AM

Dave,
It has been stated earlier that there are many little things that if done differently could have prevented this tragedy. A simple 20lb. reduction on the brake pipe is one of them, regardless of what happened to the lead unit. I think that this is pretty much SOP here in the U.S. as opposed to the MM&A rules. Those brakes would have held a very long time.

.

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Posted by Euclid on Friday, December 08, 2017 8:07 AM

Randy Stahl

The judge made it clear that he was not going to supeona any Americans.

I think that we must trust the crown prosecution and the jury. They might actually know what they are doing.

 

I am not saying they should supeona any Americans.  And I have no idea what is going on inside of the trial other than what is being reported.  I see a report that says a device that would have prevented the disaster was intentionally disabled.  It paints a very convincing picture.  The jury heard that.  I am wondering if they also heard the explanation of why the disabling of the penalty brake switching was not relevant at all, as you and Overmod have described.  It is the prosecution that would have to make that case rebutting the expert witness, but it is their expert witness who made the case that penalty brake would have saved the day.   

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Posted by Randy Stahl on Friday, December 08, 2017 8:18 AM

Euclid
 
Randy Stahl

The judge made it clear that he was not going to supeona any Americans.

I think that we must trust the crown prosecution and the jury. They might actually know what they are doing.

 

 

 

I am not saying they should supeona any Americans.  And I have no idea what is going on inside of the trial other than what is being reported.  I see a report that says a device that would have prevented the disaster was intentionally disabled.  It paints a very convincing picture.  The jury heard that.  I am wondering if they also heard the explanation of why the disabling of the penalty brake switching was not relevant at all, as you and Overmod have described.  It is the prosecution that would have to make that case rebutting the expert witness, but it is their expert witness who made the case that penalty brake would have saved the day.   

 

Except the expert witness wasn't telling the truth.

I did the best I could, the trial is essentially over. The defense may present a case however I don't believe I will have any involvement in that so I refuse to speculate on outcomes.

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, December 08, 2017 8:27 AM

daveklepper
This would be true if the airbrakes would continue to be effective from the time when the locomotive shut down, either because of the fire and the firemen's actions or because of low oil, to the time when the new crew arrived. Without the operating locomotive, how long would the airbrakes hold?

It is true that setting the automatic brake would have held the train long past the time all the locomotives had shut down.  Long into the time 'the American' would be on duty, too, walking the train to verify all the shoes had released on that critical consist, I think.

My admittedly somewhat paranoid interpretation of Callaghan's bringing up the OSV has little to do with the criminal trial, but a great deal to do with what I expect to be civil actions following this trial.  Since it has been established at trial that a device that 'could' have prevented the runaway was 'intentionally disabled' by MM&A for 'selfish reasons', I would have to be concerned that the person or persons who ordered or performed that 'disablement' might be open to claims that might not be covered by statutory immunity involving a now-bankrupt entity. 

On the other hand, the true proximate cause of the runaway, given the inadequate set applied by Harding, was the continued operation of the air turbine, a mandatory "safety" device required by both the Canadian and American government, and the appropriate civil claim might rest with the designer/manufacturer of that device 'intentionally' building it so that its air drain would not trigger an automatic-brake response, service or emergency.  That is far more significant than gagging an OSV unnecessary to safe operation under MM&A's policies.

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