The Fernie Memorial Arena remains locked down while the investigation continues. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Fernie, RCMP go to court over city log books in fatal ammonia leak probe

Log books center stage in clashing of investigations between the city and RCMP

The investigation into the fatal ammonia leak that left three men dead has taken an odd turn in a court dispute between the RCMP and the City of Fernie over a set of city-owned log books.

According to online court documents, the city requested that a provincial court judge allow city officials to “inspect and make copies” of a set of internal log books that were seized by the RCMP.

The log books are one piece of evidence in the Mounties’ investigation into October’s ammonia leak at a city-operated arena that left the community in mourning.

The court heard on Dec. 7 that during the recovery of the bodies, the RCMP came into possession of two log books that were kept inside the arena. The books contain detailed information about the operation and maintenance of the refrigeration system that presumably failed and caused the fatalities, documents show.

READ MORE: Investigators hone in on timeline of deadly ammonia leak in Fernie

READ MORE: Replacement outdoor rink opens in time for holidays

Lawyer Glen Purdy, representing the city, argued that the manner in which the RCMP obtained the log books was improper and illegal, because they were obtained without a search warrant and located by a firefighter.

Without the log books, Purdy said the city would not be able to complete their investigation as required by the Workers Compensation Act.

But in court, the RCMP pointed out that according to the act, the city is responsible for carrying out an investigation “as far as possible,” and that it would not be penalized if there are circumstances beyond its control that would prevent them from completing the review.

RCMP further stated that in this matter, the city is not an “investigative agency” such as a police force, and “merely an employer.”

In her decision on Jan. 17, Honourable judge Lynal Doerksen sided with the RCMP that disclosing the seized log books could compromise the integrity of the criminal investigation.

“Given the nature of the incident: multiple fatalities with a possible criminal cause, it is obvious that it would not be in the public interest to jeopardize the RCMP investigation to assist the city with a statutory obligation,” Doerksen said.

Mounties’ criminal investigation continues

Although officials have not provided any updates on the investigation so far this year, RCMP have said they aren’t ruling out criminal charges, such as criminal negligence causing death.

However, “it must be emphasized that at this stage there is only the mere possibly of charges and no discussion or indication of the probability or likelihood of charges,” the RCMP said.

According to court documents, city officials will receive the log books back once the RCMP investigation has concluded either because there were no charges or because the RCMP and the Crown Counsel would have to make full disclosure to the municipality if any charges are announced.

City officials declined to comment on the decision.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Sooke fastball team to compete at B.C. finals

U19 provincial tournament takes place July 13 to 15

UPDATE: Search continuing for missing kayaker in East Sooke

A witness saw the man paddling out from the marina in a kayak

Marijuana to be legal in Canada Oct. 17: Trudeau

Prime Minister made the announcement during question period in the House of Commons

Sooke’s Ayre Manor celebrates two anniversaries

Senior housing complex started in 1968

Therapeutic recovery centre likely to open in the fall

Former Choices facility in View Royal to be transformed

In reversal, Trump signs executive order to stop family separation

President had been wrongly insisting he had no choice but to separate families apprehended at border

UPDATED: Polygamous wife appeals conviction in B.C. child bride case

Emily Blackmore was found guilty of taking her underage daughter to U.S. to marry church leader

WEB POLL: Should illegal immigrants be separated from their children?

Should illegal immigrants be separated from their children?… Continue reading

Marine trail planned for Discovery Islands

Agreements with First Nations vital for passage through traditional territories

B.C. sets deadline for Indigenous salmon farm consent

All 120 operations will need agreements by 2022, province says

Family of 4 from Oregon believed to be missing in northern B.C.

RCMP, Search and Rescue crews searching area where vehicle was abandoned

B.C. creates public registry to track real estate owners

The first registry of its kind in Canada aims to end the hidden property ownership

Police watchdog called to Kelowna after car destroyed in crash

A motor vehicle incident has closed Highway 33 in both directions

Most Read