Family of Suncor mine worker who died in 2021 demands accountability

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Family of Suncor mine worker who died in 2021 demands accountability

On January 13, 2021, 25-year-old heavy equipment operator Patrick Poitras was driving a bulldozer across a frozen pond when his vehicle broke through the ice and sank into the the water.

The family of a Suncor mine worker from New Brunswick who died in Alberta in 2021 after his bulldozer fell through too thin ice at an oil sands site, demands accountability, now that charges have been filed.

The family says these charges point to significant safety deficiencies at Suncor's base plant near Fort McMurray.

< p class="e-p">Suncor faces 19 charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the company that hired Patrick Poitras, Christina River Construction, faces 9 charges.

According to charges filed in November, managers ignored a series of safety protocols by having Patrick Poitras work on the ice that day.

The charges claim there were no proper examinations of the ice. Furthermore, previous measurements which showed that the ice was too fragile to support the weight of the John Deere bulldozer that Patrick Poitras was driving, would have been ignored.

It is also alleged that it there was no safety plan in place to ensure that Patrick Poitras had a flotation device and that he would keep his door unlocked and his seat belt unbuckled when working on ice.

Suncor is accused of underestimating the weight of the bulldozer and failing to factor snow weight into the calculation. It is also accused of ignoring its own winter geology guidelines to postpone work anywhere there was more than 1 meter of standing water.

None of the companies did not offer comment.

Furthermore, none of the charges have been proven in court. Oral arguments are expected to be heard in the spring in Fort McMurray Provincial Court.

According to the victim's uncle, Joey St-Amand, the evening the family was informed of the accident, he asked questions about the circumstances and the answers he received were defensive in nature and did not make sense.

I was not surprised at all reading the report because it was a gross negligence on the safety side, he claims.

“On a construction site, there are things that can be done to minimize hazards […] There are responsibilities that weren't taken care of that day and that just picks up on me.

—Joey St-Amand, uncle of Patrick Poitras

Someone didn't do their job, and I lost my son because of that, deplores Marcel Poitras, the father of Patrick Poitras.

According to him, his son's death could have been avoided.

This is not the first time this has happened, he says. With the security [tools] we have today, that shouldn't happen.

When Patrick Poitras' mother, Cathina Daniel Cormier, learned of the details of the death of her son, her wound became alive again. When I read the accusations, I was angry, she says. I thought it was just a bad accident.

“The question I keep asking myself is, who sent him there? Who sent my son to do this job? […] I cannot let my son go in peace because of this. »

— Cathina Daniel Cormier, mother of Patrick Poitras

According to the Poitras family, Patrick had mentioned safety concerns at his workplace and said he was afraid to work on the ice the day before the incident.

“I said to him, 'If you think this is dangerous, stop, because I need you more than you think . I don't want to lose you.''”

— Marcel Poitras, father of Patrick Poitras

To which Patrick Poitras replied: Dad, I'm here to work. And they told me it was OK, says the father.

The family wants this tragic event to be a lesson and for other oil sands workers to be better protected.

Yes, it's heartbreaking that this happened to Patrick, says Joey St- Almond. But if it hadn't been Patrick, it would have been someone else.

Thirteen workers have died at Suncor oil sands operations in Alberta since 2014.

Former Suncor CEO Mark Little , said the company needed to improve the security of its operating sites to protect its employees and presented a plan to improve the security of its operations. However, Mark Little resigned in July 2022 after a second worker died in the same year.

With information from Wallis Snowdon

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