The prosecutor’s office for the province of Quebec filed criminal negligence charges relating to the July 6, 2013 derailment of an unattended 72-car freight train in the town of Lac-Mégantic. The derailment caused tank cars carrying Bakken crude oil to rupture, explode, and burst into flame, resulting in the deaths of forty-seven people and environmental contamination.

On May 13, 2014, the bankrupt Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railroad, Ltd. (MMAR) and three of its employees (the train engineer, the railway traffic controller, and the train operations manager) were each charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence. In Canada, criminal negligence that results in death is punishable by up to life in prison.   

Wrongful death lawsuits for the victims have been filed in US and Canadian courts, with the US lawsuits in the US District Court for Maine to proceed alongside MMAR’s bankruptcy case.

Questioning the safety of tanker cars and the flammability of Bakken oil, US and Canadian authorities have issued safety alertsemergency orders, and protective directions relating to the testing and classification of crude oil transported by rail, notification to state emergency officials of the movements of trains carrying crude oil within each state, and the phase-out of the least crash-resistant DOT-111 tank cars from transporting oil.