Nova Scotia

Company that pleaded guilty in diver's death ordered to pay $34K

The Hammonds Plains diving company that admitted responsibility in the death of 39-year-old Luke Seabrook has been sentenced to pay $34,000 in fines and hold several safety presentations.

Paul's Diving must pay fines and hold 15 safety presentations by next October

Luke Seabrook, 39, was working to inspect the gates that control the flow of the Annapolis River tides. (Seabrook family)

The Hammonds Plains diving company that admitted to safety violations in the death of 39-year-old Luke Seabrook has been ordered to pay $34,000 and hold a series of safety presentations. 

Seabrook drowned on July 15, 2015, at Nova Scotia Power's Annapolis Tidal Power Plant after getting stuck underwater while inspecting a gate that measures the flow of tides.

The Dartmouth diver was working for Paul's Diving Services Inc.

The company pleaded guilty in September to two charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and was sentenced Thursday.

The company admitted to failing to ensure a written dive plan was in place that met occupational diving regulations, and failing to ensure the dive was not conducted in hazardous water flow conditions. 

Luke Seabrook died while inspecting a gate at Nova Scotia Power's Annapolis Tidal Power Plant in July, 2015. (Richard Cuthbertson/CBC)

Crown attorney Alex Keaveny said the fine, which includes a $22,500 donation to a trust fund under the Department of Labour and Advanced Education, is considered on the low end of possible penalties. 

He said the joint recommendation was partly based on the small size of the company and its early guilty plea.

"An early guilty plea … spares the family and spares all the witnesses the stress of having to relive this again or wait a year or two," said Keaveny. "There's a real incentive to encourage people to accept responsibility early."

The company has one year to pay.

Safety presentations

Paul's Diving is also required to pay for and hold 15 safety presentations detailing what happened leading up to Seabrook's death and how it could have been prevented.

Keaveny said the company's president, Greg Paul, didn't comment in court Thursday, so he can't say what Paul's Diving has done to improve safety. 

Paul's Diving didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Keaveny said the presentations are a typical penalty for workplace incidents, and can be an effective way of improving safety across the industry. 

"Because people who either know the accused or the victim directly or certainly can relate to them as fellow members of the industry, they hear this very simple message that, you know, we weren't as careful as we should have been. This terrible thing happened. This can happen to you," said Keaveny.

Going after the small company

According to the court's statement of facts, Paul's Diving failed to do testing to ensure the sluice gate was closed before Seabrook dove into the water.

Because the gate was ajar, Seabrook was pulled into the gap and was trapped.

Seabrook's mother, Angela Seabrook, told CBC News in September that she's disappointed the Labour Department only laid charges against the diving company and not Nova Scotia Power, which hired the third-party contractor to inspect the gates.

She said with only a small diving company charged, she fears "this will be the end of the story and nothing ever done about it."

With files from Elizabeth Chiu