Nova Scotia

Auto shop where Peter Kempton died 'deplorable,' says expert

An expert hired by the province to assess the scene of a fatal workplace accident says he's not surprised a deadly explosion took place at the auto shop in Dartmouth last year.

Yard jammed with boats, cars, oil and gas containers; eyewash station used for carburetor cleaning

An explosion at a Dartmouth auto repair shop in September 2013 killed mechanic Peter Kempton. (John Versteege )

An expert hired by the province to assess the scene of a fatal workplace accident says he's not surprised there was a major explosion at the auto repair shop in Dartmouth last year.

David Giles, an automotive technician with 20 years of experience, says conditions at Your Mechanic Auto Corner on Main Street were "deplorable," and calls the site "a ticking time bomb."

Giles visited the shop in September 2013, three days after mechanic Peter Kempton died in an explosion and fire. 

Kempton was working under a van, which was on a trailer in the yard of Your Mechanic. He was using a torch to remove a gas tank. His death is under investigation by the Department of Labour and the RCMP.

Giles says he's done training sessions at auto repair shops across North America. 

"If that was an automotive business, I've never seen something that bad," he says.

He says the yard was jammed with boats, cars, oil and gas containers and garbage.

"In fact, the eyewash station was used as a carburetor cleaning station," Giles says. "Those kind of things, right away, put alarms up. Obviously, they weren't safety conscious."

Peter Kempton was a licensed mechanic at Your Mechanic Auto Corner in Dartmouth when he died in September 2013. (CBC)

He says Kempton was working in the yard because access to the hoist in the garage bay was blocked.
With a working hoist, Giles says Kempton might have survived.

"A hoist would have basically allowed the technician to make a run for it, maybe with minimal injury, maybe no injury," Giles says. "But when you're trapped between beams and a vehicle, doing something that you wiggled into, then obviously you're not going to get out very quickly." 

In an interview last month, Your Mechanic owner Elie Hoyeck blamed Kempton for the explosion because he made the decision to use a torch to remove the gas tank.

Hoyeck said a hoist wouldn't have saved him.

"If it was on a hoist, we wouldn't have been able to get in and get him. Because if a fire like that happens in a building, the first thing you are going to see is the building catching fire."

Giles says Kempton is partly to blame, but says he believes the shop owner bears some responsibility. 

"Safety should always be paramount and [it's] the responsibility of the employer to make sure those guys out there in that yard are working out there safely."

After the accident, provincial labour investigators issued a stop work order to Your Mechanic Auto Corner, along with 22 other safety orders. They included an order to remove hazardous materials obstructing work areas, to fix a hoist and to secure gas cylinders in a safe manner. The employer was also told to have proper training and equipment for welding work.

The orders were never followed because the building was sold and the business closed the next month.

The Department of Labour has up to two years to lay charges.

No charges have been laid and there is no finding that safety conditions at Your Mechanic Auto Corner caused Kempton's death.