Lakeland Mills widow 'outraged' by Criminal Justice decision

Angry and tearful, the wife of a worker killed two years ago in the fire and explosion at Lakeland Mills was not surprised but still disappointed with the Criminal Justice Branch's decision to not pursue charges against the sawmill's owners.

"Our worst fears have come about," Ronda Roche, 43, said Monday, moments after emerging from a meeting between Lakeland employees and officials from the branch and WorkSafeBC at the Civic Centre.

Roche's husband of 22 years, Glenn, 46, was one of two workers killed in the April 23, 2012 explosion, leaving behind Ronda and their 14-year-old son, Mason. The other worker killed was Alan Little, 43. Another 22 people were injured.

Reading from a statement, an emotional Roche said the decision has left her "outraged but also saddened."

"I was hoping for the best but was expecting the worst," Roche said as she acknowledged the same decision was reached with the Jan. 20, 2012 Babine Forest Products explosion near Burns Lake.

She was also unimpressed with how the WorkSafeBC investigation was carried out. Like the families of workers injured and killed in the Babine explosion, Roche said she will push for a public inquiry into the incidents.

She disputed claims by B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond that an inquiry would not help.

"I say to them, that they have no idea what would or would not help our families in our healing process," Roche said. "They don't know because it hasn't happened to them.

"We need answers and a public inquiry will bring details of what happened in the months prior to the explosion, on the night of the explosion and the role of the investigation agencies of the B.C. Safety Authority and WorkSafeBC after the explosion."

An inquest headed by the chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, into the Babine explosion will be held this fall and one will also be held into the Lakeland incident. In a statement issued Monday, Lapointe said she remains confident an inquest is the "best venue to address the many important questions and concerns raised about the explosion and resulting deaths."

Glenn Roche suffered burns to 95 per cent of his body and died at University of Alberta Hospital two days after the explosion.

Ronda Roche expects Lakeland will be levied a similar-sized fine to the one handed to Babine's owners. Babine was ordered to pay slightly more than $1 million but Roche noted $914,139.62 was a claims cost levy but the administrative penalty was only $97,500. The maximum administrative penalty WorkSafeBC can levy is $500,000.

WorkSafeBC is holding one-on-one meetings with employees, Roche said.

Lakeland Mills declined to comment Monday other than to say it is still reviewing the Crown's decision and considering its response.

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