The Lac-Mégantic Disaster

Case Solution

Michael Sider, Mary Weil, Brian Dunphy
Ivey Publishing ()

In July 2013, the president of Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway faced public outcry, as well as possible bankruptcy and the withdrawal of his operating license. When one of the company’s trains derailed in the town of LacMégantic, Quebec, several of its crude-filled cars exploded. The subsequent explosions and fires destroyed the core of the city center and killed several dozen people. The oil spill also polluted the local lake and river, causing an environmental disaster for the community. The company was slow to publish a press release pointing out the train engineer and fire department in response to a previous locomotive fire on the train. Someone had stopped the train and that had released the brakes. As the train was parked on a slope, it entered the city without braking, accelerated to an intersection, and derailed. Five days after the derailment, the president finally visited the city where he spoke without a French translation, further enraging the grieving citizens. He now faces public and professional criticism that could end his career.

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