Tunnelling company charged with negligence after death

When Paul Wentzell parked his company's Toyota Land Cruiser on a slope at the Wolverine mine site last October, his emergency brake failed. The vehicle rolled down the hill hitting 20-year-old Wentzell, killing him.

When Paul Wentzell parked his company’s Toyota Land Cruiser on a slope at the Wolverine mine site last October, his emergency brake failed.

The vehicle rolled down the hill hitting 20-year-old Wentzell, killing him.

And it was the company’s fault, says the Yukon Workers’ Compensation and Health and Safety Board.

Employer Procon Mining and Tunnelling should have inspected the vehicle to ensure the brakes worked, said the board, which charged the company in territorial court last week.

They should have also ensured Wentzell knew how to properly use the vehicle’s dual braking system.

As an apprentice, Wentzell was supposed to be under the direct supervision of a qualified employee at all times.

But when he died, he wasn’t.

The board nailed Procon with eight separate counts of negligence.

If found guilty, the company could face fines ranging from $150,000 for the first offence and $300,000 for each subsequent offence.

It took a year for the board to finally lay charges because it was caught up investigating a second death at Wolverine mine in the winter.

“That ended up taking up a lot of our resources,” said board health and safety director Kurt Dieckmann, explaining the board is now wrapping up a review of 25-year-old William Fisher’s death.

“We had to look at one case through the lense of the other to see if there were cross-over issues.”

But Dieckmann wouldn’t say whether there were common threads linking the tunnel cave-in that killed Fisher to Wentzell’s death.

“I can’t speak to that yet,” he said.

The board has mentioned the possibility of laying criminal charges against Procon following Fisher’s death.

“If we feel the charges are warranted, we’ll make that recommendation to justice,” said Dieckmann.

Following Fisher’s death, all underground operations at Wolverine mine stopped for four months.

Procon is still working at Yukon Zinc’s mine site, which is preparing to start up operations in March.

The mining and tunnelling company also currently has contracts at Alexco’s Bellekeno silver mine and at the Mayo B hydro-station.

Procon’s president didn’t respond to a request for comments before press time.

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com

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