British Columbia

Former construction manager charged in B.C. worker's death arrested in Montana

A former manager for construction giant Peter Kiewit Sons has been arrested in the U.S. and is facing extradition to Canada to face trial for criminal negligence causing the death of a worker.

Gerald Karjala faces trial for criminal negligence causing the death of Sam Fitzpatrick on a Kiewit work site

Sam Fitzpatrick, 24, was killed by a falling boulder on a Kiewit worksite in B.C.'s Toba Inlet on Feb. 22, 2009. (Christine Tamburri)

A former manager for construction giant Peter Kiewit Sons has been arrested in the U.S. and is facing extradition to Canada to face trial for criminal negligence causing the death of a worker.

Gerald Karjala is one of two men charged alongside Kiewit in connection with the 2009 death of Sam Fitzpatrick on a hydroelectric worksite on the central B.C. coast.

The B.C. Prosecution Service confirmed Friday that Karjala was recently arrested in Montana and has been released on bail pending an extradition hearing scheduled for Nov. 10.

Karjala, engineer Timothy Rule and the company each face a single charge of criminal negligence causing death, charges that have been called unprecedented for a business of this size.

Fitzpatrick was 24 years old when he was killed by a falling boulder on a Kiewit construction project at Toba Inlet, north of Powell River, on Feb. 22, 2009. His younger brother, Arlen, watched it happen.

WorkSafeBC investigators later noted a "reckless disregard" for safety on the project, something Fitzpatrick had spoken up about in the weeks before he died. Just one day before the fatal rock fall, another boulder had tumbled down the same slope, causing serious damage to a piece of heavy equipment.

Sam Fitzpatrick's younger brother. Arlen, left, was working beside Sam when he was killed. (Mike Pearson)

Though Fitzpatrick died more than a decade ago, criminal charges were only laid in May 2019 after a long campaign for accountability led by Fitzpatrick's friends, family and union activists.

In the meantime, both Fitzpatrick's father, Brian Fitzpatrick, and his mother, Christine Tamburri, have also died.

It's still not certain when the family's supporters will see Kiewit, Rule and Karjala stand trial.

The trial was originally scheduled to begin on Nov. 24 and last for 33 days, but last week, a judge agreed to Rule's request for an adjournment.

The next appearance in B.C. provincial court is scheduled for Sept. 30 to set new dates for the trial.

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