The jury at the inquest into the death of Ottawa student Eric Leighton, following a shop class explosion, has determined his death to be accidental and recommended many improved safety measures for Ontario schools.

After getting a list of 23 recommendations from inquest lawyers earlier this week, jury members returned Thursday and said they agreed with all but one.

Among those recommendations was that school boards have a list of approved, step-by-step school projects for high school technology courses and annual inspections of high school technology classrooms.

The only recommendation from inquest lawyers that wasn’t supported by the jury was number 19, that the Ministry of Labour require supervisors and school administrators that have the authority to supervise get the training to do inspections.

The Ministry of Labour had said that wasn’t in their jurisdiction, as employers are in charge of training.

School board has already made changes

The inquest was called by the provincial coroner's office after Leighton, 18, died following an accident in his shop class.  A barrel he was cutting into with a hand grinder in order to make a barbecue exploded on May 26, 2011. The teen was badly injured and died later in hospital.

Several other students were also injured.

The Ottawa Catholic School Board, which Leighton's Mother Teresa High School is a part of, issued two statements after the jury's report.


Eric Leighton was 18 years old in 2011 when he died in a shop class explosion.

One laid out the changes the board has made since the explosion, including running a project plan for all transportation, manufacturing and construction class projects past a panel of teachers and a "hot work permit" program which needs to be signed by a teacher before hot work can begin.

The second is a personal statement from the board's director of education.

 "There are no words to express the sadness that we feel and that I have personally expressed to Sheri and Pat Leighton," said Julian Hanlon in the statement.

"We are committed to the safety of our students and will work each and every day going forward to ensure that what happened to Eric never happens again." 

The CBC’s Giacomo Panico said the coroner shared a hug with Pat and Sheri Leighton after the recommendations were read, thanking them for their time.

Pat Leighton said he can “breathe again” after hearing them.

The jury was instructed not to assign blame for the explosion.

6-day inquest

A fire investigator who testified at the six-day inquest, which began last Monday, said sparks from the grinder ignited a cleaning solvent inside the barrel, causing the explosion.

Leighton's shop class teacher, Scott Day, spoke publicly for the first time about the explosion during the inquest, saying his assignment to make a barbecue was not part of the curriculum but used relevant skills and had been done in the past.

Eric Leighton was using hand grinder when explosion happened

Eric Leighton was using this hand grinder on the drum when the explosion happened. (Ottawa police)

Day testified he was out of the classroom when the explosion happened and said he hadn't given Leighton approval to start cutting the barrel.

The inquest also heard from Leighton's classmate Adam Soliman about how they were both trusted by Day, along with testimony from multiple Ministry of Education and Ministry of Labour officials.

Leighton's family is suing the Ottawa Catholic School Board and Day for $400,000, saying they were negligent and outlining 19 alleged failures.

On mobile? Click here to read the recommendations to the jury.