Speedway International explosion 'act of God,' lawyer says
Owner of Winnipeg fuel plant in 2012 blast ordered to pay nearly $30K in fines, restitution
The owner of a fuel plant that exploded in 2012 and sent fireballs into the Winnipeg sky has pleaded guilty to six charges.
Royce Rostecki has agreed to pay $4,800 in fines for the Oct. 1, 2012, blast and fire at Speedway International Inc., even though his lawyer called it "an act of God."
The six City of Winnipeg bylaw and fire code charges to which Rostecki pleaded guilty relate to occupancy permit violations, not having proper fencing around the property, and the containment of biodiesel that was being stored on the property, where he was storing canola oil to make biodiesel.
In addition to the fines, Rostecki was ordered to pay $25,000 in restitution to the City of Winnipeg.
City officials confirmed to CBC News that the total cost of staffing the massive fire was just over $31,000.
Lawyer Gord Steeves, a former city councillor who made an unsuccessful run for mayor, admits that some things might "not have been done properly" with respect to the storage of flammable liquids.
Court also heard that the city conducted at least 50 inspections at the Speedway site over several years prior to the fire.
The plea and fine was a joint recommendation between the Crown and defence.
Rostecki did not speak to media after entering his plea in provincial court Monday morning.
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The explosion forced the evacuation of entire neighbourhoods and caused $15 million in damage to the business, nearby rail cars, vehicles and tanker trucks.
Flames and thick black smoke could be seen for kilometres around the plant, which manufactured racing fuel. It took fire crews several hours to bring the fire under control, and residents could not return to their homes until the following day.
A strong chemical smell was present in the area for days afterwards and sooty debris could be seen on a number of buildings and streets.
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Fire officials later determined the blaze was caused by the spontaneous combustion of an oily substance.
Stephen Baril, who works at a shop near the Speedway site, says he believes Rostecki should have faced a steeper fine.
"Considering all the things involved with it, $4,800 does seem a little bit low," Baril said, adding that he's glad nobody was hurt in the incident.