A U.S. bankruptcy judge on Friday joined a Canadian judge in approving a $338 million fund to settle claims stemming from a fiery train derailment that claimed 47 lives in Canada.
The final hurdle is a vote by creditors in the U.S. before the plan can be confirmed on Sept. 24, said Robert Keach, U.S. bankruptcy trustee for the former railroad that operated the runaway train.
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"This moves the settlement one step closer to completion," Keach said. "That means we're one step closer to getting the money to these families who obviously deserve it. It's time to get them their compensation."
The fund is about $439 million Canadian. Included in the settlement is $85 million, about $111 million Canadian, for wrongful-death claimants.
Much of downtown Lac Megantic, Quebec, was destroyed after the unattended Montreal, Maine & Atlantic train with 72 oil tankers derailed on July 6, 2013. More than 60 tankers derailed, and several exploded.
Last month, the Canadian government brought new charges after an investigation found an insufficient number of handbrakes were applied and the handbrakes were not tested properly. The new charges target an engineer, the railway and the CEO.
The railway filed for bankruptcy after the derailment, which destroyed 40 buildings, including a busy bar where many of the victims perished.
The settlement fund has been the product of lengthy negotiations with about two dozen companies.
The only party with potential liability that has declined to participate is Canadian Pacific Railroad, which transported the crude to Quebec before tankers moved onto rail lines owned and operated by Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railways.
The railroad that passes through Lac Megantic is now under new ownership and has undergone upgrades. The new owner, Central Maine and Quebec Railway, has resumed shipments of goods including propane and chemicals, but the company has agreed not to ship crude oil through Lac Megantic until 2016, company officials said.