Eastway Tank, owner plead guilty in workplace blast that killed 6 | CBC News

Eastway Tank, owner plead guilty in workplace blast that killed 6

The company at the centre of one of the deadliest workplace incidents in Ottawa has pleaded guilty to two charges, while the owner of the company has pleaded guilty to one.

On Jan. 13, 2022, Eastway Tank, Pump and Meter Ltd. employees Rick Bastien, Etienne Mabiala, Danny Beale, Kayla Ferguson and Russell McLellan died in a blast that destroyed the decades-old business on Merivale Road. 

A sixth employee, Matt Kearney, succumbed to his injuries in hospital the next day, while a seventh person survived but suffered severe injuries. 

Eastway and its owner Neil Greene were accused of breaching Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) "on or about" the day of the explosion.

In a joint submission, read out in court Friday, the Crown and defence lawyers for Greene, agreed he and the company would plead guilty to failing to ensure that diesel fuel to be used for the wet testing of trucks was not contaminated with gasoline or any other flammable liquid of substance.

The company also pleaded guilty for failing to provide adequate information, instruction, and supervision to workers on safe fuel storage and handling procedures to protect the workers from the hazard of diesel fuel, used for the wet testing of trucks, becoming contaminated with gasoline or any other flammable liquid or substance.

Justice Mitch Hoffman still needs to decide what penalty to hand out. 

Both company and owner faced charges

One year after the disaster, Ontario's Ministry of Labour charged Eastway and its owner Neil Greene with three identical counts each under the province's Occupational Health and Safety Act. 

A months-long trial was scheduled to begin last month but was abruptly called off. The ministry told families instead to expect a guilty plea and for the matter to be "resolved" on April 5.

In the first charge, the ministry alleged Eastway failed to ensure that the process of loading and "wet testing" a truck happened a safe distance away from ignition sources.

Wet testing involves loading a tanker with diesel or gasoline in order to calibrate equipment inside it.

The second charge accused Eastway of "splash" loading fuel into the truck.

That's what happens when someone opens a tank lid and "just pumps product into the opening with no control," said Chris Revers, who managed a tank manufacturing plant in Alberta for 16 years, in a previous interview with CBC.

"The product just splashes all over the tank, spilling on the tank [and] creating a fire or explosion hazard," Revers said.

The third charge alleged Eastway did not properly instruct workers on safe fuel storage or handling procedures.

'Our world fell apart'

The packed courtroom included family members of the six dead, and Tanner Clement, who was severely injured in the blast.

In a victim impact statement, Beale's mother, Jean Schade, said she was notified late that night of her son's death when a police officer showed up at her door.

She described the pain of having to tell his twin and other sister.

"Our world fell apart," she said. "The pain you feel when a child dies is a deep physical ache."

She told the court she no longer enjoys watching It's a Wonderful Life, a film she used to watch with her son.

One of Mabiala's daughters, Celeste, also addressed the court on behalf of her sister and mother, describing her gentle and patient "genius" father who would "give everything he had for someone in need."

Since her dad's death, the sight of oil trucks makes her sick and she's constantly checking to see if they have an Eastway logo.

"The worst was seeing all the things my dad loved," she said. "The whole house was filled with his memories and everything that he touched."

In a statement read by one of Kearney's sister's she described the unimaginable loss and pain of losing a son and younger brother that has "left a palpable void in the hearts of all who knew him."

Kearney, who died the day after the explosion, had called his family from the ambulance. They sat by his hospital bed in his final hours.

"People say time heals all wounds, but this one does not get better," she said.

More to come.


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