Injured mill worker Dirk Weissbach and his wife Kathleen (left) and NDP leader Adrian Dix (right) listen as Maureen Luggi speaks to reporters about the death of her husband Robert at Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake in 2012.

Injured mill worker Dirk Weissbach and his wife Kathleen (left) and NDP leader Adrian Dix (right) listen as Maureen Luggi speaks to reporters about the death of her husband Robert at Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake in 2012.

Mill fire families demand justice

Widows, injured workers and relatives back NDP call for an independent inquiry into two explosions of dry dust in northern sawmills

VICTORIA – Survivors and relatives of those killed in a pair of sawmill explosions in northern B.C. came to the B.C. legislature Thursday to back calls for an independent inquiry into the disasters and how they were investigated.

Among the visitors was Maureen Luggi, a former chief of the Lake Babine First Nation, and her son Robert Luggi Jr. Her husband Robert and her second cousin Carl Charlie were both killed in the explosion in January 2012 at the Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake.

Both Maureen Luggi and Dirk Weissbach, who was also working on that evening shift and was one of 20 workers injured, questioned why the mill continued to operate as the temperature fell to below -40. Water lines were frozen and vent fans used to clear dust from the dry wood were turned off to keep heat in the building.

Maureen Luggi said she has reviewed the WorkSafeBC report, the Crown prosecutor decision not to lay criminal charges and a follow-up report by John Dyble, Premier Christy Clark’s deputy minister, which looked at problems with evidence gathering by WorkSafeBC investigators.

“Our families will never be the same,” she said. “I would like justice, I want transparency, I want accountability. All of this evidence that the Crown looked at, I want to know what’s in it.”

With family members in the public gallery, Clark took questions from NDP leader Adrian Dix in the legislature.

“My view is that in order to make sure this never happens again, we need to get on with fixing the problems that exist at WorkSafeBC,” Clark said. “We need to do it now.”

Dix told the legislature that two years after the fatal explosions in Burns Lake and at Lakeland Mills in Prince George, 42 per cent of mills inspected have continued to show non-compliance with dust control measures.

A coroner’s inquest is scheduled for this fall into the Burns Lake incident. Prosecutors have not yet decided on whether to lay charges in the Lakeland explosion, which also killed two workers and injured 22 more in April 2012.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Island Health has confirmed the first long term care facility outbreak in Greater Victoria at Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich. (Google Maps)
Island Health records first long-term care COVID outbreak in Greater Victoria

Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich confirms one positive staff member

Itty, a Siamese cat, has been missing since a house fire in Victoria’s Fernwood neighbourhood on Friday, Nov. 27. Her owner says she has white fur with blonde and grey markings. (Facebook/ROAM)
Cat goes missing after house fire in Fernwood neighbourhood

‘Itty’ has white fur, blonde and grey markings and blue eyes

Westcoast Impressions plans to organize a COVID-19 friendly version of the event in 2021 at the Mary Winspear Centre after having cancelled the 2020 version against the backdrop of pandemic. The opening night of the 2019 Sidney Street Market featured more than 150 vendors lined along Beacon Avenue. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sidney Street Market plans for 2021 return at Mary Winspear Centre

Tentative plan calls for the event’s return to Beacon Avenue after COVID-19 pandemic

An aerial view over Oak Bay. (Black Press Media File Photo)
An aerial view over Oak Bay and the Marina. Oak Bay residents pay the highest taxes on Vancouver Island. Don Denton/Black Press
Oak Bay secondary suites study considers units old and new

Secondary suites draft report due in new year

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

Most Read