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New Charges brought in Quebec railway disaster that killed 47 in 2013

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TORONTO — The Canadian government filed new charges Monday in the runaway oil train explosion that killed 47 people in Quebec two years ago.

Regulatory agency Transport Canada said the charges have to do with an insufficient number of handbrakes being applied and that the handbrakes were not tested properly.

Much of downtown Lac Megantic was destroyed on July 6, 2013, by a raging fire caused when an unattended train with 72 oil tankers began rolling downhill toward the town. More than 60 tankers derailed and many exploded. Forty-seven people died and dozens of buildings were destroyed.

In 2014, three railway employees were charged with 47 counts each of criminal negligence, including engineer Thomas Harding, who is accused of failing to set enough brakes on the train. Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, the defunct railway at the heart of the disaster, was also charged.

The accused in the new charges include Harding, the railway, CEO Robert Grindgrod and manager of train operations Jean Demaitre.

The Canadian subsidiary of the railway and three others have also been charged although it's not immediately clear what role they are accused of playing.

Transport Canada spokeswoman Mélany Gauvin said the companies could be fined up to $1 million, and individuals could face a fine of up to $50,000 or up to six months in jail, or both.

There are also charges under Canada's Fisheries Act for the crude oil that flowed into Lac-Megantic and the Chaudiere River.

The accused must appear before the court in Lac-Mégantic on Nov. 12 to respond to the charges. Gauvin said they cannot discuss further details as the charges will be before the courts.

Harding had left the train unattended overnight to sleep at a local inn shortly before it barreled into Lac-Megantic, devastating the downtown bar area and forcing a third of the town's residents to flee.

The crash, the worst railway accident in Canada in nearly 150 years, prompted intense public pressure to make oil trains safer in the U.S. and Canada. Both governments have announced some measures since then including thicker tanker cars.

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