Credits: PIERRE-PAUL POULIN/QMI AGENCY
MONTREAL - Tom Harding, the train engineer now at the centre of the Lac-Megantic, QC explosion, was involved in a minor train derailment last August on a Canadian National-operated railroad, QMI Agency has learned.
No one was injured in the Aug. 3, 2012, derailment in Saint-Hyacinthe, QC, but CN opened an investigation and asked that Harding provide urine samples to determine if he was intoxicated at the time.
Harding, the engineer who parked the train Friday night at a station just outside Lac-Megantic, QC, has so far refused to speak to QMI Agency.
He is currently under police investigation and has been suspended from his job.
Harding's boss, Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) Railway chairman Ed Burkhardt, told reporters on Wednesday the engineer might have failed to properly secure the train the night of the derailment.
Harding was described as a "good, polite, man" by one of his taxi drivers who drove him around town during his frequent stays there, and Lac-Megantic residents who spoke to QMI on Wednesday have refused to condemn him.
Clement Rancourt said that he and his employees would often drive Harding several times a week.
"He was a polite man who talked a lot," Rancourt said. "He was always telling stories."
Andre Turcotte, the taxi driver who chauffeured Harding from the train to his hotel room the night of the derailment, said Harding "looked just fine" Friday night.
Rancourt said it wasn't fair for the company to single out Harding so early into the investigation.
"(The MMA) has changed their story several times so far," he said.
Only Tuesday, in fact, Yves Bourdon, an executive with MMA, bragged that Harding risked his own life, leaping out of bed at the sound of the explosions, to release several tanker cars that would have added fuel to the fire.