Yesterday afternoon, the coroner’s inquest into the explosion at the Babine Forest Product’s mill heard harrowing testimony from former mill workers.
Ryan Clay described how he had just hit send while texting his future wife about how much he was looking forward to going on a two-week vacation next week, just as the mill exploded.
He told the inquest if it weren’t for a wall blowing out, he wouldn’t have been able to escape his office as all the exits were blocked by burning debris.
Calmly, he described reaching for his radio to call for help, only to see the skin on his hand melt off.
Clay told the inquest how the week leading up the explosion was full of mishaps as the extremely cold weather froze water pipes, broke equipment, and forced the mill to close windows in an attempt to keep workers warm.
Echoing previous witnesses, Clay told the inquest they had no idea wood dust was explosive.
They were only concerned about potential respiratory impacts of breathing in the fine wood dust.
Like others, he also spoke of very little communication between workers; the company management, the union, and WorkSafe B.C.
Next to the stand was Steve Dominic.
He was in the basement of the mill when the mill exploded.
The inquest had to break for several minutes when Dominic was overcome with emotion when he was asked when was the last time he saw Robert Luggi.
He said that Luggi went to check on a malfunctioning machine that normally he would’ve gone to work on, but because he was already busy, Luggi went in his place right before the mill exploded.
For a long time Dominic thought he caused the explosion because he had just pressed a button on a machine when the lights went off and a fireball ripped through the mill.
After the inquest resumed, Dominic told jurors how he thought he was going to die after being thrown against a concrete wall and to find himself on fire, and when he looked up, instead of the ceiling, he saw the sky.
He said he jumped into a puddle of water and rolled around, only to be set on fire again by secondary explosions.
Just when he had mentally said his last goodbyes to his family, he was able to join two other workers and escape the burning mill.
After he was hospitalized in Edmonton, Dominic told the inquest that he quickly learned that he could get out sooner if he told the doctors what they wanted to hear, he said he so because all he wanted to do was to be back with his friends and co-workers.
Dominic told jurors that when WorkSafe B.C. came to test the dust levels in the mill, the apparatus that was supposed to measure particles in the air for his entire shift, became plugged after only two hours.
The inquest is scheduled to continue until July 28.