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

Port Alberni residents enjoy public tours on Coast Guard vessel

PromoScience Expedition offered the public a chance to learn about marine research

Coast Guard vessel open for second day of public tours on Alberni waterfront

Talk to marine scientists, learn about research equipment on CCGS Vector

Port Alberni walks for World Food Day

John Paul II Catholic School students walked to end world hunger

San Group announces plans to build new sawmill in Port Alberni

San Group has purchased 25 acres of Catalyst Paper land on Stamp Avenue for its expansion

Two Port Alberni cannabis dispensaries raided on legalization day

Leaf Compassion and Cannabis Club ticketed for “unlawful sale” of cannabis

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

B.C. passenger caught smoking weed in a car issued $230 fine

Saanich police did a field sobriety test on the driver and deemed it safe for him to drive

Payette invites critics to ‘come and spend a few days’ with her

Governor General Julie Payette made her first official to B.C. back in March

More pot stores expected in B.C. in coming ‘weeks and months’: attorney general

Attorney General David Eby and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth visited the new BC Cannabis Store in the province’s Interior

Telus launches charitable foundation to help vulnerable youth

The Telus Friendly Future Foundation complements other social initiatives by the company, including Mobility for Good

Police say suspicious death of B.C. artist ruled a homicide

Patrick Zube Aylward’s body was found in a residence on a rural road outside of Seton Portage, west of Lillooet, B.C.

Temporary roads being built in areas affected by landslide in northern B.C.

Emergency Management BC news release says Disaster Financial Assistance is available to eligible residents of the Peace River Regional District who may have been affected by the landslides

B.C. tickets win big in Lotto Max draw

Jackpot carried over; B.C. tickets share Max Millions prizes

Most Read