Eric Leighton inquest: New details to be revealed in Ottawa school explosion

New details will be revealed during a two-week inquest into the death of Ottawa high school student Eric Leighton, who was killed in a 2011 shop-class explosion.

Ottawa student, 18, killed in May 2011 after steel drum exploded during class project

A 2-week look at the death of an Ottawa student in a shop class explosion begins March 24. 2:53

A coroner’s inquest that starts on Monday should reveal new details surrounding the death of an Ottawa high school student in a 2011 shop-class explosion.

Eric Leighton, 18, died after a steel drum exploded in May of that year, while he was building a barbeque at Mother Teresa Catholic High School.

Eric Leighton was less than one month away from graduating high school when he died in a school explosion. (Photo courtesy of Leighton family)
The student was using a hand grinder on a steel drum when a spark ignited gas inside the drum, which once contained both flammable peppermint oil and a cleaning solvent.

Several of Leighton’s classmates were also injured in the explosion, which is the subject of a two-week inquest that expects to hear from 14 witnesses.

After two weeks, a jury will recommend measures that could prevent similar deaths in the future.

Lawsuit filed against school board, teacher

As part of its mandate, the inquest will not lay blame, but Leighton’s family was still pleased when it was called as they continue to search for answers.

In May 2013, the family also filed a $400,000 lawsuit against the Ottawa Catholic District School Board and the shop class teacher, Scott Day. It listed 19 alleged failures of the board and teacher and it said both defendants should have foreseen the potential danger of doing hot work on a barrel that once contained a combustible gas.

Eric Leighton's mother, Sheri, has a large tattoo on her right arm with Eric's face and his name below. Sheri Leighton has not returned to work since her son's death. (CBC)
The Leightons’ statement of claim said Patrick Leighton couldn’t return to work for three months after his son’s death. It also stated Sheri Leighton has been diagnosed with a major depression disorder attributed to her son's death and should not return to work.

None of the accusations have been proven in court.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has already fined the Ottawa Catholic School Board $275,000 after the board pleaded guilty to failing to provide instruction or supervision, take every reasonable precaution to protect the workplace and acquaint the supervisor with hazards associated with the handling of equipment at the shop.

The court also prohibited the school from welding, cutting or other "hot work."