Burns Lake, BC – Nearly two years after an explosion and fire tore through a British Columbia sawmill, leaving two workers dead, the Crown announced there will be no charges, pointing a finger at a questionable investigation by the province’s worker safety agency.
The investigation by WorkSafeBC left significant evidence in the fatal fire, which occurred in January 2012 at Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake, BC, inadmissible in court, said the province’s criminal justice branch.
The concerns raised by the branch include the failure to obtain search warrants or inform witnesses of their charter rights before taking statements.
With evidence that would have been admissible, there was “a sufficient factual underpinning” for a number of provincial violations, the branch said, but the Crown felt the company had a viable defence of due diligence.
A series of blasts and an ensuing fire at the mill on Jan. 20, 2012, killed Robert Luggi, 45, and 42-year-old Carl Charlie. Twenty other employees were injured and the mill was destroyed.
A few months later, in April 2012, an explosion at the Lakeland Mills in nearby Prince George killed 43-year-old Alan Little and 46-year-old Glenn Roche.
The investigation did not come up with a conclusive cause for the fire but did determine it ignited in the basement, setting alight combustible sawdust.
The possibilities of what started the initial fire range from an open flame to static or friction from an electric motor.
Steve Zika, CEO of Hampton Affiliates, the Oregon-based owner of Babine Forest Products, said the company has worked to reduce the risk of future accidents. The new mill has equipment to collect sawdust and is designed to allow easier clean-up. MRO
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