Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Emergency personnel continue to comb through the debris in the search for remains of the missing in Lac-Mégantic, Que., on July 9, 2013.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Ever since the last weekend's rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, one question has crystallized in the minds of many here: Why hadn't Edward Burkhardt, the chairman of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, shown up to face residents?

On Wednesday, they finally caught glimpse of him as an exceptional scene played out a few hundred metres from the crash site. Around 1 p.m., Mr. Burkhardt, who had arrived from Sherbrooke two hours earlier, emerged from an official accreditation centre where he attempted unsuccessfully to gain access to the crash site and was immediately swarmed by reporters.

In the chaotic encounter – with the chairman testily responding to shouted questions as residents heckled him – Mr. Burkhardt said many of the right things: He felt "devastated by what's occurred in this community." He pledged the company's resources to help those affected. "We're going to stand up to our responsibility," he said.

Story continues below advertisement

He stood behind the company's safety record but acknowledged, "We blew it all." And while he cited human error on the part of an engineer, he took full responsibility, explaining he spent the first days after the derailment dealing with crash-related issues from his Illinois office. "If I lived here, I would be very angry with the management of this company," he said. "We are making an abject apology to the people in this town."

Several onlookers were not satisfied. "Nothing he says will suffice for losing our town and our people," said a tearful Joanne Orichefqui, who was evacuated from her home. "How do we get back from this?"

Mr. Burkhardt delivered one message many residents did not want to hear: after the clean-up, "We'll…build track back and start to run trains through here again."

Ghislain Bolduc, the area's provincial political representative, acknowledged many residents would prefer if the track was ripped up, but suggested it would be impractical. "How else are we going to transport goods – in trucks through the town? Is it better? You have to think very seriously and take the time to do the proper thing for everyone."

Mr. Burkhardt offered frank responses to reporters' questions after touring the devastated town.

EDWARD BURKHARDT, IN HIS OWN WORDS

On whether hand brakes were set on the oil tanker cars:

Story continues below advertisement

"As a matter of fact, I'll say they weren't. "

On the train's engineer:

"I don't think he'll be back working for us."

On possible criminal charges:

"Let the chips fall where they may."

On whether the railway has any responsibility for the accident:

Story continues below advertisement

"We think we have plenty of responsibility here. Whether we have total responsibility has yet to be determined."

On why he waited five days after the accident before visiting Lac-Mégantic:

"I didn't think that there would be any use for me wandering around on the edge of town until the first responders had had an opportunity to do their work."

On whether the railway will apologize to Lac-Mégantic:

"We owe an abject apology to the people in this town."

On whether he's a compassionate person:

Story continues below advertisement

"I feel absolutely awful about this. I'm devastated by what's occurred in this community. I have never been involved in anything remotely approaching this in my whole life."

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies