Nipawin explosion trial wraps up
SaskEnergy worker breaks down during testimony
The provincial court trial of a contractor accused of causing a fatal natural gas explosion in Nipawin more than three years ago has ended after two days.
Two men died in the explosion on April 18, 2008, that also destroyed three buildings and damaged others in the town 250 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.
Self-employed backhoe operator Lorry Riemer is accused of digging too close to a natural gas line while working on vacant lots in the town. He is charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act with failing to keep mechanical equipment a safe distance away from a gas pipeline and failing to ensure his actions did not expose others to safety risks.
On Tuesday, three SaskEnergy employees testified at the trial as witnesses for the prosecution.
One of them, service technician Willy Duncan, choked up as he described the incident that killed a father and son.
"I recall flying through the air, hearing a loud thwump, I saw the air rushing past me," said Duncan, who received cuts to his face and neck after being blown nine to 12 metres by the blast.
"I got up and turned around and there was nothing there," he said. "Rudy's Butcher Shop was gone, and I could see into the living room of the building next door."
The butcher shop exploded an hour after Riemer's digging broke a gas line underground. Duncan was called to the scene when people in the area smelled natural gas, but was unable to determine where it was coming from. The gas eventually travelled into the basement of the nearby meat shop, where it ignited.
Duncan said the hardest part was not knowing what he was dealing with.
"I didn't know if the service connection was broken. I didn't know if a weld was broken," he testified.
On Monday, a witness said Duncan refused to shut off the gas lines in the area before Riemer began digging, because he would have to spent his weekend lighting pilot lights.
Duncan said he didn't remember saying that.
SaskEnergy was also charged with five violations when the charges against Riemer were laid two years ago. However, the charges against the Crown corporation were stayed earlier this year.
Duncan testified that the explosion has had a profound impact on his life.
"I'm just not the same person I was 3.5 years ago. It's affected my marriage, it's affected my kids," he told the court.
The trial was scheduled to last the week, but was completed after two days when the defence did not call any witnesses.
Provincial court Judge Barry Morgan has reserved his decision until April 11, 2012.
If convicted, Riemer faces up to $300,000 in fines.