The engineer who parked the freight train that rolled into Lac-Mégantic and exploded in one of the country's worst rail disasters, was involved in a minor derailment last year, according to a former employer.
Tom Harding, who could not be reached for comment, was working for Maine & Atlantic Railway last summer when a train he worked on derailed in Ste-Hyacinthe, Que.
CN spokesman Mark Hallman confirmed the incident.
In a prepared statement, Mr. Hallman said, "Tom Harding, an employee of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway – I want to make it very clear that he is an employee of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway – was involved in a minor locomotive accident in CN's Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, yard in August, 2012."
He added: "CN took appropriate steps following the accident."
At a scrum in Lac-Mégantic on Wednesday, the chair of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, Edward Burkhardt, said the fact that the train ran away indicates "the hand brakes on the balance of the train were not applied."
Mr. Harding, who lives in Farnham, where there is a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway office, has been suspended, according to Mr. Burkhardt. Mr. Harding is also being investigated by the company.
According to the manager for transportation at Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, Mr. Harding had a safe record.
"Mr. Harding has had a good record with the company previous to this accident," she said.
Editor's note: Railway engineer Tom Harding wasn't working for CN when a train he worked on derailed in a yard owned by CN. Incorrect information in an earlier version of this story has been changed.