Occupational safety charges against BC tugboat owners in fatal sinking approved
The owners of a tugboat that sank in the waters off Kitimat, BC two years ago, causing the deaths of two workers, are now facing multiple charges under the Workers Compensation Act.
Wainwright Marine Services and James Geoffrey Bates, president of parent company Bates Properties Ltd., were each charged with eight counts of violations of health and safety regulations, according to court documents Monday.
The charges stem from the sinking of the tugboat Ingenika on February 10, 2021 in the turbulent, cold waters of the Gardner Canal. Two men, Charley Cragg and Troy Pearson, died in the incident.
Judy Carlick-Pearson, Pearson’s widow, said it would be a win for the families to see a conviction on the new charges, but she would have preferred to see criminal negligence charges.
“We, like many other people, believe it was criminal for us to have urged these guys to get in the water that day,” she told CBC.
The charges each carry a maximum fine of $777,601.27 and/or up to six months in prison for a first conviction.
“Will that make us feel any better?” asked Carlick Pearson. “You know, it may take a while, but at the end of the day, our loved ones aren’t coming home to us.”
Skeena-Bulkley Valley Assemblyman Taylor Bachrach welcomed the indictment but said more needs to be done to protect sailors in BC waters.
“The charges announced today are an important step towards achieving justice for the families of Troy Pearson and Charley Cragg,” Bachrach said in a statement. .
“The government and judicial system must use all available means to hold negligent companies accountable and protect workers’ lives.”
The Ingenika was towing a barge full of mining supplies and equipment when she went down near Kitimat.
Last fall, Transport Canada fined Wainwright Marine Services $52,000 after finding that the Prince Rupert company had failed to ensure that the ship was staffed with an adequate and competent crew, failed to ensure that the on shipboard employees had certificates for their positions and endangered the safety of the ship and the people on board.
Bates Properties was also fined $10,000 for failing to ensure the vessel met regulatory requirements.