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Former Ice Road Truckers cast member late for sentencing over cannabis-related explosion

A former cast member of the hugely popular TV series Ice Road Truckers was late for his sentencing in Yellowknife on Friday, raising the ire of a judge who has already expressed scepticism that a proposed sentence is too lenient.

Arthur Burke admitted he was making a cannabis concentrate when butane ignited, causing explosion

Arthur Burke, 66, suffered burns to 40 per cent of his body putting out a fire in the bathroom caused by the explosion. (Walter Strong/CBC)

A former cast member of the hugely popular TV series Ice Road Truckers was late for his sentencing in a Yellowknife courtroom on Friday, raising the ire of a judge who has already suggested that a sentence proposed by the man's lawyer and the prosecutor may be too lenient.

Arthur (Art) Burke pleaded guilty earlier this year to a rare charge of causing arson by negligence in connection to an explosion that occurred when he was trying to make a concentrated form of cannabis called shatter.

The sentencing was scheduled to take place at 9 a.m. on Friday. Burke was to appear by video from a courthouse in Prince Edward Island, but the clerk at the court there said he had not arrived. After calling her client, Burke's lawyer said he was under the impression the hearing was to begin at 9:30.

"It was said at least three times it was starting at 9," replied Judge Donovan Molloy. Burke's lawyer said her client was on his way to the P.E.I. courthouse.

"It's not going to happen now, there are other matters scheduled for 9:30," said Molloy.

"I will hear from you at 9:30 on Tuesday about why he should not come to Yellowknife for sentencing," said the judge before closing court.

In a statement of agreed facts, Burke admitted that last Nov. 3 he was trying to produce the cannabis concentrate in the bathroom of his and his wife's Yellowknife apartment.

The process requires a large amount of butane, a highly flammable liquid that turns into a gas at room temperature. The butane ignited, causing a powerful explosion that blew the bathroom door off its hinges, rattled neighbouring units and caused more than $60,000 damage to the 54th Street building.

Burke, 66, suffered burns to 40 per cent of his body putting out a fire in the bathroom caused by the explosion.

The Nova Scotia man spent 12 days in hospital recovering from his injuries.

At an earlier sentencing hearing the Crown prosecutor and Burke's lawyer both suggested a sentence of 18 months of house arrest.

But the judge balked at their suggestion that Burke be allowed to serve some of the house arrest in the cab of his truck while working and asked the lawyers to provide more justification for that.

In a background report filed in the case, Burke said the explosion has cost him dearly.

"In one heartbeat everything I worked for vanished," he said.

"I am going to lose all my savings for retirement."

He told the probation officer who prepared the report not to talk to his wife, saying she is still devastated by the incident.

Burke, who now lives in Prince Edward Island, starred in Ice Road Truckers for its final five seasons.

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