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Lac-Mégantic statue replaced ahead of the disaster’s first anniversary

Auto body shop owner Gilles Perron looks at the restored statue of the Sacred Heart, June 11, 2014 in Lac-Megantic, Que. The statue will be replaced on its base in time for the first year anniversary celebrations.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

The charred, oil-splattered Jesus Christ statue that became a symbol of the deadly Lac-Mégantic derailment has undergone a facelift ahead of the disaster's first anniversary.

A photograph of the statue circled the planet after a runaway train carrying volatile crude oil slammed into the Quebec town last summer and exploded.

The image, taken by David Charron, shows the life-sized effigy of Christ facing the inferno as flames swallow the nearby downtown core. The statue depicts Christ with his arms outstretched to display his sacred heart.

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A local auto-body shop completed the makeover in time for planned events to commemorate the first anniversary of the July 6 crash, which incinerated buildings and killed 47 people.

"It's a rejuvenation," shop owner Gilles Perron said Wednesday in an interview at his garage in the town's industrial park.

The 93-year-old statue will soon be re-installed on its base on the front lawn of Ste-Agnes Church – only a couple of dozen metres from the blast site – as part of a new monument to pay homage to the victims.

"They're going to do something nice where people can come to reflect because [the statue] is pretty much the symbol of all this," said Perron, who also serves as a deacon at the church.

"It represents something."

The church, which overlooks the downtown area, is scheduled to hold two Roman Catholic masses next month to mark the anniversary.

Perron said he used automotive paint to give the cast-iron mould a fresh golden hue, but only after he had to blast it with a power washer to remove a layer of crude oil.

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"We thought washing it would be enough," he said.

"The front of it was pretty burnt, that's why the paint came off."

The noted statue, placed out in front of Perron's garage so the paint could dry, has attracted a lot of attention from passersby because it's easily spotted from the road.

"My God, many people have stopped to have their photos taken beside it," Perron said.

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