(Macleans) Remembering the terror in Lac-Mégantic

The Musi-Café in Lac-Mégantic was always the sort of place where people liked to gather on a summer night. The music was good, the food hit the spot, and the taps ran 25 brands of draft beer. Three years ago, when he was 32, the club’s owner, Yannick Gagné, got tired of leasing, bought the building and doubled the club’s floor space in time for its 10th anniversary. Friday, July 5, seemed like another good day. At lunch Gagné had his photo taken with Christian Paradis, the federal industry minister, who happened to be in town. Later, crowds gathered for two different birthday parties.

The place was at its capacity of around 180 for dinner, but started to quiet down later in the evening. “It was a beautiful evening, but the place wasn’t completely packed,” Gagné said later. He went home shortly after midnight. There were perhaps 50 people still inside and another 30 on the patio. When he got home, Gagné emailed his pregnant wife, 23-year old Lisandra Arencibia Tamayo, telling her she should stop collecting the cover charge at the door and join him at their home less than 700 m from the Musi-Café. Tamayo arrived, fell asleep on the couch””and minutes later, they heard an explosion.

That fireball was only the first of many as a pretty summer night turned to hell. A 72-car train with five locomotives had rolled downhill, unattended, from Nantes, the next town up the road. Each of the tanker cars held tens of thousands of litres of light crude oil.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Canada