Charges laid in fatal explosion
Note: This is an edited version of an earlier story.
A pulp mill tank that exploded last year and claimed the life of a young Terrace Bay man was not properly tested, drained or cleaned of explosive material before welding work was performed on it, the Ministry of Labour said Wednesday.
The allegation is part of a combined total of 12 labour code charges that have been laid in the Oct. 31, 2011 explosion that blew part of the roof off the former Terrace Bay Pulp plant.
T.J. Berthelot, 28, the father of a young girl, died when the explosion occurred around 5 p.m. as he was nearing the end of his shift.
On Wednesday, the ministry said it has laid the charges against former mill operator Terrace Bay Pulp and Thunder Bay contracting company Venshore Mechanical Ltd.
The ministry had a year from the date of the incident to lay charges.
The charges are: 3 counts against Terrace Bay Pulp; three counts against Venshore; and two counts each against three unnamed individuals.
The charges, which also list an unnamed supervisor, say that the tank was being worked on without “adequate instructions (being) given to a worker performing welding-related work on a cracked tank that normally contains a hazardous substance.”
At the time of the explosion, Berthelot was reportedly acting as a watchman. He usually worked nights, but logged a day shift that afternoon so that he could take his daughter out for Halloween.
A few months after the incident, Terrace Bay Pulp, a division of Thunder Bay-based Buchanan Group, became insolvent and was put under a court-ordered restructuring process.
The idle mill was resurrected this summer and put back into production by India’s Aditya Birla Group, which has not been charged.
The ministry was unable Wednesday to provide an immediate response when asked if it was worth pursing charges against an insolvent company that presumably has no money to pay a fine.
Ernst & Young accountant Alex Morrison, who is monitoring the outstanding financial matters of Terrace Bay Pulp on behalf of Ontario’s Superior Court, said Wednesday he has yet to receive formal notice of the charges against the company.
If Terrace Bay Pulp is found guilty and fined, the amount would be added to the list owed to its outstanding creditors, said Morrison.
Terrace Bay Pulp owed about $40 million when it declared insolvency at the beginning of this year.
The province forgave $25 million of that amount as part of the transaction that resulted in the Birla Group acquiring and restarting the mill.
Terrace Bay Pulp and Venshore are to make a first appearance in Thunder Bay court on Nov. 23.