$100K fine recommended in workplace death of young Australian in Inuvik

There was no supervisor on the worksite at the time of the accident, according to an agreed statement of facts read in court Tuesday.

No supervisor on the worksite at the time of the accident that killed David Vinnicombe, 19

Robbie and Renee Vinnicombe, David's parents, in Longreach, Australia, where David grew up. The 19-year-old was killed in a workplace accident in Inuvik last year. (Submitted)

On Tuesday in Inuvik, lawyers agreed on a plea deal in the 2016 workplace death of David Vinnicombe, and recommended a $100,000 fine against the company involved.

Allen Services & Contracting Ltd. and a company supervisor originally faced nine charges under the territory's Safety Act, but pleaded guilty in October to one charge: "failing to ensure that all workers are sufficiently and competently supervised."

On Tuesday as part of the deal, the prosecutor withdrew the remaining 8 charges.

Vinnicombe, a 19-year-old Australian, was working for Allen Services when a piece of heavy equipment he was operating rolled and killed him.

Vinnicombe died while working on a construction site near this road, later named Longreach in his memory. Vinnicombe was from Longreach, Australia. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

On Tuesday morning lawyers for both sides recommended a $100,000 fine. The maximum fine available under legislation is $500,000.

Seatbelt could have made the difference

Prosecutor Roger Sheppard said $100,000 was "reasonable" given the company's revenues, remorse and the fact it was the company's first offence under the Safety Act, with no prior deaths or incidents.

Brian McCarthy, the company supervisor originally included in the charges was in court, but declined comment.

But he was there to hear the prosecutor say the death was a "wake-up call to the company," and that "a lack of proper supervision and training" led to the accident.

The prosecutor said the simple fact of wearing a seatbelt "may have drastically changed the outcome."

In the agreed statement of facts, Vinnicombe was said to have no formal training operating the road packing machine — a "packer" — he was using that day, although he did have about 150 hours of experience in the driver's seat.

McCarthy, was not onsite to supervise at the time of the accident, but was on another job and calling in by radio to check on the crew. He told the court he didn't recall telling David he had to wear a seatbelt, though there is a sticker in the machine that warns of rollovers and to wear a seatbelt.

According to the agreed statement of facts, there was no supervisor on the worksite at the time of the accident.

An 'outback kid'

Vinnicombe's parents, Renee and Robbie, observed the proceedings by video conference from Australia. They read victim impact statements into the court record, their voices quivering at times with emotion.

"Part of his mother and I died with him," his father Robbie said.

He described his son as an "outback kid" with quick reflexes.

"Can't believe he died this way," he said. "What a terrible waste."

The fine, if the judge agrees, will go toward programing with the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission. Allen Services and Contracting has instituted company-wide training and updated safety policies since Vinnicombe's death.

Judge Garth Malakoe has reserved his decision on the proposed sentence. The next court date is set for Feb. 20, 2018.

With files from Kate Kyle