Inquest called to look into B.C. mine tragedy

Inquest called to look into B.C. mine tragedy

The B.C. Coroner’s Service has decided to hold a public inquest into the deaths of four people earlier this year at the decommissioned Sullivan Mine in southeastern B.C.

Two mine employees and two ambulance paramedics died in May in an above-ground water-sampling hut at the Teck Cominco mine site just outside Kimberley.

Following a lengthy investigation, B.C.’s chief mines inspector said the four died from an oxygen-deficient atmosphere down at the sump pit of the shed.

In his report, George Hermann also said that Teck Cominco didn’t keep track of employees working alone at the mine site, but he said that didn’t cause the four deaths.

But the families of the victims weren’t satisfied with that conclusion, and have been calling for an inquiry in recent weeks.

Victims were overcome 1 by 1

The four deaths were the results of a chain of events that began when environmental consultant Doug Erickson went to the shed to test the water, and was overcome.

His wife reported him missing two days later. A friend, Bob Newcombe, who also worked for Teck Cominco, went into the shed where he saw Erickson’s body in the water and called 911.

He then collapsed and died.

Two paramedics responded to Newcombe’s call. Kim Weitzel went into the hut first and collapsed. Her partner, Shawn Currier, then tried to help her and was also overcome.

Jeff Dolan, B.C.’s assistant deputy chief coroner, said the inquest hearing will try to come up with recommendations to prevent a recurrence of the tragedy.

“One of the goals for a public inquest is for the five-person jury, once they’ve heard all the evidence from the subpoenaed witnesses, to make recommendations to prevent a similar death or injury from occurring in the future under similar circumstances.”

Dolan said a date hasn’t been scheduled for the inquest yet, but he thinks it will be held in Kimberley

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