CALGARY – Ground Zero Inc. changed its plea to guilty from not-guilty in the 2015 Canmore gas explosion that completely demolished one house and damaged a dozen more.
On Tuesday (April 23), Crown prosecutor Brian Kiers, who was appearing on behalf of Crown prosecutor JP Quenneville, made an application in the Calgary Courthouse to cancel Ground Zero Grading Inc.’s 2020 trial, instead requesting a date for June for the charges to be dealt with.
“Ground Zero Inc. has agreed to plead guilty,” the secretary at Quenneville’s office confirmed, noting the Crown and defence are still finalizing details to the agreed statement of facts.
As a direct result, charges against Andrew Pacaud were withdrawn.
Pacaud, a heavy equipment operator for Ground Zero at the time, was originally charged with failing to protect the health and safety of other workers present while he was also working that day, with the trial set for two weeks in Calgary.
Initially both Ground Zero Grading Inc. and Pacaud pleaded not-guilty, along with APM Construction and Jerry Arbeau, to the 13 charges between them under workplace safety legislation in connection with the June 26, 2015 explosion.
At press-time, APM Construction and Arbeau maintained their not-guilty pleas.
The incident happened almost four years ago, when an ATCO gas line was struck on June 26, 2015. As a result, the gas flowed through the ground into a basement of a nearby single-family home on 14th Street, where an ignition source was found and the home exploded, sending debris throughout the neighbourhood and damaging nearby houses.
APM Construction Service and Ground Zero Grading Inc. were working on a construction site for the expansion of the Bow River Senior’s Lodge, which has since been completed, with funding from Alberta Seniors.
APM was the general contractor that day and Ground Zero Grading Inc. was hired to do the excavation work. Ground Zero was digging in the ground when the gas line was struck.
The construction crews went door-to-door notifying residents, however nobody called 911 prior to the explosion. No one was in the house at the time and no serious injuries were reported as a result of the explosion.
The blast registered 1.1 on the nearest Richter scale in Priddis. A $6.4 million property assessment loss was noted on the 13th Street properties the following year.
A two-year investigation by Occupational Health and Safety resulted in multiple charges against APM and Ground Zero under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, as well as the OHS code.
Pacaud was the first to enter a not guilty plea, with APM entering a not-guilty plea on Jan. 30. Ground Zero and Arbeau were the last to enter not-guilty pleas on Feb. 27.
APM Construction and Arbeau are still set to go to trial in January 2020.