Special victims’ fund set up following Quebec plant blast, possible cause named
A special fund will be created to help the families of victims in a plant explosion last week that killed three people, sent 19 to hospital and flattened an industrial facility — and the Quebec environment ministry has handed the company two notices of non-compliance.
The company that owns the plant, Neptune Technologies & Bioressources, said the fund would pay for psychological help and offer financial assistance to families of workers who were killed or remained in hospital. It did not disclose financial amounts Monday but said more details would be released soon.
“There are few, or no, words to convey the pain, sadness and anger in each of us,” said Henri Harland, the company founder and CEO.
“Of course, none of these measures can make up for the loss of three measures of our family. But I hope these measures at least help reduce some of the unfair pressure created by this incident.”
An explosion and subsequent fire destroyed the company’s production plant in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. The explosion could be heard for kilometres, and the subsequent fire reduced the plant to heaps of charred rubble.
The company, which produces health products from marine life, saw its shares plunge more than 10 per cent in the moments after the disaster and has had trading on its shares suspended last week.
Initially, the cause of the blast had not yet been determined. Harland said he is hoping to reopen the plant, “in the very short term,” in Sherbrooke.
According to the Montreal Gazette, “the Quebec environment ministry has handed the company two notices of non-compliance to do with the amount of acetone on the premises and the company’s lack of permit to expand its production facilities.” The explosion is believed to have started in one of the reservoirs containing highly flammable acetone, commonly used as paint thinner or nail polish remover.
The provincial workplace-safety board is investigating and the company said it is co-operating with the investigation. It has also asked its insurance company to create a dedicated unit to help Neptune employees process their claims quickly.
It was one of two similar incidents in Quebec within a 24-hour period.
Several hours later, an explosion rocked a plant in the same region belonging to Bombardier Recreational Products.
Bombardier announced Monday that one of its employees, who was in hospital, had died from his injuries.
The company said Sebastien Tardif, a 38-year-old father of two, died from injuries sustained in the explosion at the Valcourt, Que., research facility.
A second person who was injured in the blast, a security guard, remained in intensive care in the burn unit of Quebec City’s Enfant-Jesus hospital.
Tardif was a dynamometer operator, an instrument that is used to measure torque, power or force.
The company said an investigation is ongoing to determine what caused the blast during the night shift at the facility.
The research centre is closed but the company said manufacturing operations have not been affected.
The company said in a statement that its thoughts were with Tardif’s family and friends and it offered support to the family and Tardif’s fellow employees.
BRP was spun off by Bombardier Inc. in 2003. It is half-owned by Bain Capital, with the founding Beaudoin family holding a 35 per cent stake and the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec owning the rest.
The Valcourt plant produces Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Sea-Doo jet skis and Can-Am all-terrain vehicles and is located about 130 kilometres east of Montreal.
Quebec’s workplace health and safety commission is investigating both explosions to try determining a cause.