Burns Lake sawmill inquest to be held by B.C.'s chief coroner
Lisa Lapointe to personally conduct inquest into death of 2 workers in sawmill explosion
B.C.'s Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe has announced she will personally preside over the inquest into the deaths of Carl Charlie and Robert Luggi who died in the explosion and subsequent fire at the Burns Lake sawmill in January 2012.
Lapointe says, given the high-profile nature of the tragedy and the fact that issues to be reviewed are of significant provincial interest, she decided to conduct the inquest herself.
She also wants to assure the families the inquest will "thoroughly review all aspects of the tragedy."
"In particular, the inquest will review policies, practices and responsibilities related to the mill operation and worker safety," said Lapointe, "and will allow an opportunity for a full and frank review of the mill's operation and of all of the events leading to the tragedy."
Lapointe says an inquest is one of the best ways to address the many concerns about why and how the explosion happened and what can be done to prevent a similar event.
"Subpoenaed witnesses must testify and address all questions put to them," she said "The normal rules of evidence do not apply in order to ensure a full accounting of the facts. This is true public accountability."
Lapointe says mill workers will be on the inquest jury and WorkSafeBC will likely testify.
No criminal charges
A WorkSafeBC investigation into the tragedy found the sawmill fire could have been prevented if mill management had dealt with the accumulation of wood dust and the poor condition of some of the electrical equipment.
However, the worker safety agency came under fierce criticism when criminal charges were unable to be laid because WorkSafeBC didn't follow proper evidence-gathering procedures for criminal investigations.
Last week, Premier Christy Clark ruled out the public inquiry the families had been demanding.
Clark told the legislature that WorkSafeBC and a subsequent government probe have already identified the issues that need addressing and come up with recommendations.
She says her government is busy implementing those recommendations.