Territory sidesteps blast fallout

Territory sidesteps blast fallout The Yukon government should not be held responsible for a blast that showered beachball-size rocks onto people's homes four years ago.

The Yukon government should not be held responsible for a blast that showered beachball-size rocks onto people’s homes four years ago.

On Monday, Justice Ron Veale overturned a previous court decision, which fined the territory $30,000.

The blast sent 10- to 15-kilogram rocks onto the Lobird Trailer Court during construction of the Hamilton Boulevard extension.

Tree branches were sheared from their trunks and people ran for cover as rocks from the blast rained down on May 6, 2008. One large rock fell through the roof of a home, landing in a family’s living room. Luckily, no one was hurt.

In October 2010, territorial court judge John Faulkner decided the territory was at fault for allowing the blast and failing to immediately report it to an occupational health and safety officer. The contractor, P.S. Sidhu Trucking, and site supervisor William Cratty were also found guilty. Blaster Peter Hildebrand pleaded guilty to the unsafe blast, telling the judge he had no idea how close the trailer park was to the blast site. The government, Cratty and P.S. Sidhu Trucking all appealed Faulkner’s decision. The territory asked for a separate trial, saying the decision would set a dangerous precedent for all property owners because while the government owned the project, it contracted the work, meaning only the contractor should be held responsible.

Veale agreed and overturned Faulkner’s decision this week, saying his colleague was mistaken.

While the territory did tender the contract for the blast, it was not the recognized “constructor” under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This means the government was not in control of how the blast was conducted, including setting it only 149 metres from the neighbourhood, Veale said.

Monday’s decision also dismissed Cratty and P.S. Sidhu Trucking’s appeals, meaning their fines of $2,500 and $21,000, respectively, must still be paid.

In his original decision, Faulkner ordered those fines to be paid to Northern Safety Network Yukon for safety courses and projects.