No charges in Prince George sawmill blast

Prosecutors cite the same "due diligence" defence in decision not to prosecute Lakeland Mills management

Fire destroys Lakeland Mills sawmill in Prince George

Crown prosecutors have decided not to lay charges in the April 2012 wood dust explosion and fire that killed two workers in Prince George.

The Criminal Justice Branch issued a statement Monday saying the evidence available for court would be unlikely to result in a conviction. There is evidence of prohibited acts recommended for charges against mill operators, but a defence of “due diligence” would likely result in acquittal, the statement says.

WorkSafeBC had recommended two charges for alleged violations of the Workers Compensation Act and two more for violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations in the Lakeland blast. No criminal negligence charges were recommended.

All four recommended charges are regulatory offences, with conviction resulting in fines. Prosecutors found that WorkSafeBC did not use “major case management” procedures, including search warrants and gathering evidence on the state of management’s knowledge of the risk.

A similar conclusion was reached in the case of the Babine Forest Products mill in Burns Lake, where prosecutors determined they would be unlikely to prove negligence. Administrative penalties totalling more than $1 million were levied on the Babine mill owners.

Labour Minister Shirley Bond announced Monday that a coroner’s inquest will be held into the Lakeland fatalities. B.C. Ferries Commissioner Gord Macatee is temporarily replacing outgoing WorkSafeBC CEO David Anderson and will oversee changes to worker protection and investigation, Bond said.

Two mill workers died and 20 others were injured when an explosion and fire tore through the Babine sawmill on Jan. 20, 2012. A similar blast three months later killed two workers and injured 22 more at Lakeland Mills.

Investigators ruled out natural gas, oil and other fuel sources, leaving fine, dry dust produced from milling dry wood. The likely ignition source was hot electric motor and gear reducer equipment running wood waste conveyors in low, confined areas of the mills.

Extra efforts to inspect mills for dust accumulation were underway across the province when the Lakeland fire occurred. Both mills were processing large volumes of dead trees killed by the mountain pine beetle.

The Crown counsel report described a smaller dust fire at Lakeland on Jan. 19, 2012, when sparks from an equipment malfunction ignited “a column of burning sawdust that rose to the ceiling.”

No one was hurt in that incident, and spot fires in sawdust were put out by mill workers.

In the five years preceding the fatal explosion, WorkSafeBC issued 36 inspection reports and cited Lakeland for 15 violations, but none were related to sawdust. There were no warning letters or administrative penalties to Lakeland for sawdust issues during that time.

 

Just Posted

BREAKING: Homes in Colwood near Esquimalt Lagoon being evacuated

Tsunami warning in effect for coastal areas of B.C. after 7.9 earthquake off Alaskan coast

Bob Heyes back behind Shamrocks bench for 2018 season

Art Webster, Mike Simpson, John Hamilton will also return

Metchosin supports moving to three-year municipal term

Some councillors say four years is too much of a commitment

UPDATE: Driver escapes from crash in Sidney

Town truck and another vehicle collide, causing van to roll over

FISHING ADVENTURES: Winter fishing season in full swing

Upcoming fishing events include Local Pub’s Salmon Superbowl Derby and Victoria Boat Show

Testing the Google Arts & Culture app

Going face to face with art

VIDEO: Fuel truck and train collide in B.C. causing massive fire

More emergency crews are still arriving on scene of a massive fire at the Port Coquitlam rail yard.

Back to work: U.S. government shutdown ends after Democrats relent

Short-term spending measure means both sides could see another shutdown stalemate in three weeks

Man lives despite malfunctioning defibrillator at B.C. arena

A middle-aged man went into cardiac arrest after at game at Pitt Meadows Arena last Wednesday.

Reynolds, Edward Milne capture titles at Esquimalt hoops tournament

Host Dockers take fourth in senior girls draw

Cause of Northern B.C. seaplane crash released

TSB releases report on seaplane crash during a water landing in 2016 near First Nations community

Vancouver police crack down on pop-up pot vendors

Officers raided merchants’ tables on Robson Square late Sunday

Bell Media, NFL take appeal over Super Bowl ad rules to top court

At issue is a ban on substituting American ads with Canadian ones during the game’s broadcast

Crown seeks 4.5 years jail for B.C. woman convicted of counselling tax evasion

Debbie Anderson the latest from group to face jail for teaching debunked ‘natural person’ theory

Most Read