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Wrongful death suit in Quebec train crash filed in U.S.

An emergency worker stands on the site of the train wreck in Lac Megantic, July 16, 2013. REUTERS/Ryan Remiorz/Pool
An emergency worker stands on the site of the train wreck in Lac Megantic, July 16, 2013. REUTERS/Ryan Remiorz/Pool

By Casey Sullivan

(Reuters) - The guardian of a girl whose Canadian father died in the tragic Quebec train crash this month filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois on Monday against a number of railway and fuel services companies connected with the disaster.

The lawsuit is believed to be the first filed in the United States related to the train derailment in the early hours of July 6 that sent 72 tankers of crude oil crashing into the village of Lac-Megantic in Quebec, where they exploded in a ball of fire, killing almost 50 people.

Annick Roy, the guardian of Fanny Roy Veilleux, whose father Jean-Guy Veilleux, a Lac-Megantic resident, allegedly burned to death as a result of the train crash, filed the lawsuit in Cook County. Court documents did not provide the age of Fanny Roy Veilleux, but described her as a minor daughter.

The defendants include railroad operator Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway Inc, its parent company Rail World Inc, MMA Chairman Edward Burkhardt, and fuel services company World Fuel Services Corp.

Roy alleges in the suit that the companies largely failed to keep the train's oil tankers, known as DOT-111s, up to reasonable government safety standards and are therefore negligent in the death of Veilleux.

"For more than 20 years, problems with DOT-111 tankers rupturing upon derailment have been well documented by government safety regulators and media outlets," Roy said in the lawsuit. "The railroad and petroleum industries have long acknowledged the design flaws in the DOT-111, but have consistently ignored the (National Transportation Safety Board's) calls to address the dangers associated with rupture of the tankers."

Roy said in the lawsuit that the tanker cars that spilled in Lac-Megantic were the same type that ruptured in a 2009 derailment in Cherry Valley, Illinois, that resulted in a spillage of 324,000 gallons of ethanol. The Lac-Megantic tankers lacked safety improvements recommended by the NTSB, the lawsuit said.

Other defendants named in the lawsuit are Western Petroleum Company, Petroleum Transport Solutions, Dakota Plains Transloading LLC, Dakota Petroleum Transport Solutions, Dakota Plaints Marketing and DPTS Marketing.

Montreal, Maine and Atlantic, Rail World, Edward Burkhardt, World Fuel Services Corp and other defendants were approached for comment on the suit but did not immediately respond. Nor did the lawyer representing Roy, Peter Flowers of Chicago-based Meyers & Flowers.

About a week after the crash, Canadian and U.S. lawyers filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of two Lac-Megantic residents, Guy Ouellet and Yannick Gagne, in Quebec Superior Court to seek compensation from the accident. Defendants included the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic and Burkhardt, among others.

(Reporting By Casey Sullivan; Editing by Ted Botha and Peter Galloway)

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