Trophy Stone Outfitting Limited and one of its supervisors have been fined $46,000 under the Occupational Health and Safety Act after the death of an employee in Jan. 2019. (Yukon News file)

Trophy Stone Outfitting Limited and one of its supervisors have been fined $46,000 under the Occupational Health and Safety Act after the death of an employee in Jan. 2019. (Yukon News file)

Yukon outfitter fined for violations after death of employee

Trophy Stone Outfitting pleaded guilty under the OHSA after the 2019 death of an employee

A Yukon outfitting company and one of its supervisors have been fined $46,000 under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) after the death of an employee.

Jason Keith, 36, drowned in Drury Lake in January 2019, while on a work trip for Trophy Stone Outfitting Limited (TSO).

The outfitter was fined $20,000 with a $3,000 surcharge. William Sandulak, who was overseeing the trip, was individually fined the same amount as Keith’s supervisor.

The outfitter and Sandulak pleaded guilty to failing to comply with OHSA safety procedures, and both were fined in territorial court on Jan. 5.

According to the court’s agreed statement of facts, Sandulak and Keith were traveling by snowmobiles when they rode into open water on Drury Lake the night of Jan. 28.

Keith, an Alberta resident, had arrived in the Yukon about 10 days previous to assist the outfitter with winter work. He had been previously employed by the outfitter in 2018, but left in the off-season to care for his grandmother in Morinville, Alta.

Keith had “since become good friends” with Sandulak and was staying with Sandulak’s family upon his return.

On the night of Jan. 28, Keith and Sandulak embarked on an overnight trip to Drury Lake with Brad Friesen, another employee. They planned to check on two camps belonging to the outfitter, in preparation for the upcoming season.

Their initial plan was to stay overnight at the lower camp, but upon arrival found there was no bedding there. They subsequently decided to continue travelling to the upper camp.

Both Sandulak and Keith were driving outfitter-owned snowmobiles attached to skimmers loaded with overnight gear. Friesen was driving his own snowmobile, also with a skimmer.

The statement of facts says that temperatures were unusually mild in the area. The trio wasn’t aware of anyone who had travelled to the lake by snowmobile that winter.

It’s noted that all three had frequently traversed the area, but Keith was less experienced with a snowmobile than the other two.

They were not wearing life jackets, nor were they equipped with ice picks, floating ropes or buoyancy devices on the snowmobiles.

“TSO had no safety protocols in place dealing with night travel, winter water or ice conditions, the use of personal protective or other safety equipment, snow machine operation or pre-trip planning,” the document states.

The trio were travelling between the two outfitting camps when they reached the “narrows,” a section of Drury Lake described as “dangerous and unpredictable.”

The area is traditionally open water, but closer to shore than normal due to the warm weather and lacking the overflow that would normally signal its approach. Sandulak said he didn’t realize when he and Keith had arrived at the narrows, partially due to the darkness. Both drove into the open water.

Friesen was traveling along the shoreline, about 100 metres away, when he stopped and realized both snowmobiles had gone under.

Friesen saw the two in the water and ran towards them. Sandulak was closer to shore and managed to swim within 15 metres. Friesen attempted to reach him, but fell into the water himself.

After breaking and scrambling on ice, Friesen climbed back ashore and threw a rope tied to his snowmobile to Sandulak.

Friesen said he could hear Keith calling for help, but was too far out in the water to be reached.

Sandulak grabbed the rope and was pulled ashore by Friesen.

“Sandulak estimated that he had been in the water for about five minutes and believed that had he not finally caught the rope, he would also have drowned. He credits Brad Friesen for saving his life,” the document says.

Once Sandulak had been rescued, there was no longer any sound of Keith. Believing he had drowned, Sandulak and Friesen called for help. They were picked up by a mutual friend who lived in the area and had been snowmobiling with them earlier.

RCMP divers from B.C. attended the scene on Feb. 1. They located the snow machines the next day, and the body of Keith on Feb. 3, about 75 metres from shore.

“William Sandulak immediately accepted responsibility for Mr. Keith’s death,” the document says.

The outfitter admitted to failing to provide adequate training and protective equipment to employees. Sandulak additionally admitted to failing to conduct a risk assessment, provide adequate instruction and warning of risk to Friesen and Keith. The decision to travel at night made him unable to identify the location of the dangerous conditions.

Trophy Stone Outfitting was issued 10 orders to be in compliance with the OHSA, in addition to the fine. It required that the outfitter provide an incident investigation report; complete hazard assessments; provide training records for staff; establish an emergency response plan; provide buoyancy equipment to staff and training for ATVs and snow machines.

The outfitter hired a health and safety consultant to aid with the orders and achieved full compliance on Oct. 7, court documents state.

“The plan cost TSO $9,500 and is the first of its kind of a Yukon outfitter,” the documents say.

Both the outfitter and Sandulak were given three years to pay the fines.

Trophy Stone Outfitting did not respond to the News’ request for comment.

Contact Gabrielle Plonka at

Yukon courts

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

Just Posted

City of Whitehorse city council meeting in Whitehorse on Oct. 5, 2020. An updated council procedures bylaw was proposed at Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 18 meeting that would see a few changes to council meetings and how council handles certain matters like civil emergencies. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse procedures bylaw comes forward

New measures proposed for how council could deal with emergencies

A Yukon survey querying transportation between communities has already seen hundreds of participants and is the latest review highlighting the territory’s gap in accessibility. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Multiple reports, survey decry lack of transportation between Yukon communities

A Community Travel survey is the latest in a slew of initiatives pointing to poor accessibility

Mobile vaccine team Team Balto practises vaccine clinic set-up and teardown at Vanier Catholic Secondary School. Mobile vaccine teams are heading out this week to the communities in order to begin Moderna vaccinations. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Mobile vaccine teams begin community vaccinations

“It’s an all-of-government approach”

The now empty lot at 410 Cook Street in Whitehorse on Jan. 19. As developers move forward with plans for a housing development that would feature 16 micro-units, they are asking city council for a zoning change that would reduce the number of required parking spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Developer asks for zoning change

Would reduce the number of required parking spaces

The Liard First Nation is preparing to enter negotiations for self-governance with the territorial and federal governments. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News file)
Liard First Nation preparing to enter self-governance negotiations with Yukon, federal governments

Chief Stephen Charlie seeking an agreement separate from “dead end” UFA

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

Most Read