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The Eastway Tank tragedy, two years later

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An improvised memorial has taken shape near the entrance to Eastway Tank, on Merivale Road in Ottawa, since the tragedy of January 13, 2022. (Archive photo)


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Even though two years have passed since the Eastway Tank tragedy in Ottawa, the event left an indelible mark on the life of Louise Martel, who lost her partner Rick Bastien.

It's hard to realize that it's been two years. For me, it's like it happened yesterday, she said in an interview with CBC/Radio-Canada a few days before the second anniversary of the tragedy .

On January 13, 2022, an explosion and fire occurred at the Eastway Tank plant on Merivale Road in Ottawa. The event resulted in the deaths of six workers: Kayla Ferguson, Richard “Rick” Bastien, Etienne Mabiala, Danny Beale, Russell McLellan and Matt Kearney.

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Rick Bastien, Etienne Mabiala, Danny Beale, Kayla Ferguson , Russell McLellan and Matt Kearney were the victims of the explosion at the Eastway Tank plant in Ottawa in January 2022.

We still don't know what really happened. It's frustrating, very frustrating, laments Louise Martel.

Following the tragedy, the Ottawa Police, the Ontario Ministry of Labor and the Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) have each launched an investigation to shed light on the causes and circumstances of the event.

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The BCI confirmed last November that it had completed its investigation into the cause, origin and circumstances of the explosion. However, the BCI does not intend to publicly release its final report before the end of the legal proceedings in this case.

Two years after the Eastway Tank explosion, the victims' families are still looking for answers.

This weekend, Louise Martel plans to pay tribute to her late partner and the five other victims by going to the improvised memorial, located near the entrance to Eastway Tank, to mark the second anniversary of the tragedy.

I'm going to go on Sunday because of the storm. I'll bring flowers. I bought balloons for each person who died; I'm going to let them go. I chose songs. We’re going to pray, she explains.

Despite the pain that visiting the scene of the tragedy can cause, Louise Martel believes in the importance of taking care of the appearance of the improvised memorial.

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Rick Bastien, 57, was one of six employees who died in the Jan. 13 explosion and fire at Eastway Tank.

I always replace all the photos and try to go there once or twice in the summer to mow the grass, because no one usually does it. I'm trying to keep it clean so people remember something happened there.

Over the past two years, Louise Martel's life has been marked, among other things, by the fact that her partner, Rick, is no longer there. We had plans – so many plans – and we’re not going to make them. I could do a few on my own, but it won't be the same because he won't be there, she says.

Richard is always present in my memory, always present in my head. Richard worked with wood. He made a bathroom cabinet. When I go into the bathroom, it reminds me of Richard and how he worked, recalls Ms. Martel.

The Ontario Ministry of Labor has laid three charges against Eastway Tank and its owner under the province's Occupational Health and Safety Act in connection to the tragedy of January 13, 2022. The first hearing is scheduled for March 4.

However, Louise Martel says she has no expectations for this trial: I no longer believe in justice. I don't believe there will be justice.

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Flowers and photos were left near the Eastway Tank facility following the explosion, in tribute to the victims. (Archive photo)

She deplores the delay in filing charges by the ministry with regard to the company and its owner, as well as the nature of the charges.

This is ridiculous. These are six lives. There are more than six families suffering from this incident. It's not an accident, it's an incident. A tragedy, she says.

The Ottawa police, who are investigating the event, assure by way of a written statement that they continue to actively investigate the incident and, therefore, cannot make any comments. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims.

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Unlike the Ontario Ministry of Labour, which had one year to complete its investigation and lay charges, Ottawa police are not subject to such a deadline (File photo).

In a written statement, Transport Canada emphasizes that it has not received any request or amendment from Eastway Tank for operation at another location.

Transport Canada confirms that Eastway Tank has not submitted a new application nor carried out regular operations as part of its registration since the explosion of [January 2022], the ministry said, first last November, then earlier this week.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">With information from Guy Quenneville, News

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116