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Testimony gets testy at Babine inquest

The morning session of the coroner’s inquest into the Babine Forest Product’s mill explosion saw moments of testy cross-examination of Paul Orr, WorkSafe B.C.’s lead investigator of the incident.

Orr was questioned by counsel for the United Steelworkers as to why WorkSafe B.C. didn’t enforce dust mitigation regulations at the Babine mill even though they knew wood dust was a problem after a small fire had broken out in early 2011 that shut down the mill for a month.

Orr responded that measures were underway to mitigate that specific incident.

Counsel for the USW and Babine Forest Products both raised concerns over Worksafe B.C.’s investigative techniques as their interviews were later criticized for violating Charter Rights and wouldn’t have stood up to scrutiny in a criminal proceeding.

Tempers flared when counsel for Babine Forest Products cross-examined Orr, questioning his depth of expertise.

His line of questioning raised objections from both the coroner’s counsel as well as WorkSafe B.C’s counsel, and the presiding coroner.

He then questioned whether it was common knowledge that beetle wood was more susceptible to ignition prior to the Babine mill explosion.

Orr said it was, or that the mill owners should have known, to which counsel responded that so should the regulatory body, a point Orr conceded.

After the jurors asked Orr several questions, the presiding coroner called for the lunch break.

But before he dismissed the jurors, he passed a portrait of Carl Charlie to the jurors, to remind them that besides all the technical details they’re hearing, they’re not to lose sight that they’re here because two men lost their lives.

The coroner apologized for the oversight because a portrait of Robert Luggi was handed to them yesterday, but the coroner said he himself got caught up with procedure and forgot Carl Charlie’s portrait when it was brought up.

That was an emotional point for family members as several of them were brought to tears.

The afternoon session will hear from first responders and the coroner.

About Bill Fee

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