British Columbia

Trucker who drove down closed road found guilty in Lemon Creek fuel spill

A provincial court judge acquitted the B.C. government of all charges, writing that the road closure was clearly marked.

B.C. government acquitted of all charges connected to massive 2013 jet fuel spill

Danny Lasante's truck was carrying 35,000 litres of jet fuel when it crashed. (CBC)

A truck driver has been found guilty for his role in a massive jet fuel spill that contaminated a B.C. waterway in 2013.

Danny Lasante was convicted Thursday on one count under the Environmental Management Act for causing the leak of about 35,000 litres of fuel into Lemon Creek in the Slocan Valley.

In the same judgment, provincial court Judge Lisa Mrozinski acquitted B.C.'s forests and transportation ministries of multiple charges related to the spill.

The tanker is shown after it crashed into Lemon Creek. (The Canadian Press)

At the time of the crash on July 26, 2013, Lasante's truck had been carrying Jet A-1 fuel meant for helicopters fighting a nearby wildfire.

He was driving along a closed road when his truck slid into the creek.  

"Had Mr. Lasante taken even a little more care, the spill might not have occurred," Mrozinski wrote in her judgment.

She said the provincial ministries were not responsible for Lasante's decision to take the wrong road — there were signs clearly stating that it was closed.

The judge wrote that Lasante's actions had led to an "environmental disaster," even if it was unintentional.

"Certainly the step he did take, which was to drive to the best of his ability over a road he knew or ought to have known was closed and one that was obviously unmaintained, narrow, wet and carved out of a hillside beside a fast moving creek, did not satisfy the test for due diligence," Mrozinski said.

Lasante's employer, Executive Flight Centre, was originally charged in connection with the spill, but those counts were stayed in October.

A sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled for Lasante.

The spill caused 'harm and even death' to aquatic life in the creek.

The fuel "caused harm and even death among the aquatic life" in Lemon Creek and in the Slocan River downstream, according to the judgment. Nearby residents reported that inhaling the fumes led to symptoms like nausea, headaches and burning eyes.

There was a mass evacuation as a result, as well as a $4-million cleanup.

Last spring, a B.C. Supreme Court justice certified a class-action lawsuit against the provincial government, Executive Flight Centre, and Transwest Helicopters in connection with the spill.

A trial is scheduled to begin in 2019.