Randy MacDonald, who spent nearly twenty years working on the rail line that runs through Lac-Mégantic, started the Tom Harding Defense Fund website to raise money for the former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railroad employee who was the last to drive the train carrying 72 cars of crude oil that derailed on July 6, killing 47 people.
“I just had so many connections to the area and it just seemed like it was in my old neighbourhood that it had happened and I felt like it could have been me because I worked there for almost twenty years,” said MacDonald.
Investigators are still trying to determine what exactly happened and who should be held responsible for the disaster, and according to the website, Harding's legal fees are now approaching $10,000.
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MacDonald said he hasn't spoken to Harding in nearly twenty years, but remembers a competent, responsible man.
“He was very professional and everybody looked up to Tom Harding, and I actually have spoken to people that he has trained and... he did everything by the books,” said MacDonald.
Shortly after the disaster, MM&A CEO Edward Burkhardt said the derailment was caused by Harding's failure to properly set the train's brakes.
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Lengthy legal battle likely ahead
Harding's lawyer, Thomas Walsh, said that even though no charges have been laid, there's likely a lengthy legal battle ahead and any financial contribution is helpful.
“Very few people are equipped to handle something like this when it lands on them," said Walsh.
Walsh said Harding is struggling to come to terms with what happened.
“It's a great moral boost for Mr. Harding to know there's other people — kindred spirits if you will — or people that have the same métier who are interested in giving him a hand and are interested in supporting him,” said Walsh.