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Suncor, Christina River Construction facing 28 charges in relation to 2021 death

Evan Saunders
Suncor, Christina River Construction facing 28 charges in relation to 2021 death
PATRICK POITRAS/FACEBOOK — A total of 28 charges have been laid against Suncor and Christina River Construction relating to the 2021 death of Patrick Poitras. Poitras was operating a bulldozer on a frozen tailings pond in northern Alberta when the vehicle broke through the ice.

Charges have been laid against two companies in the 2021 death of Patrick Poitras in northern Alberta.

A total of 28 charges have been filed against Suncor Energy Services Inc. and Christina River Construction Ltd. by the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act for their alleged failure to ensure Poitras’ safety. Poitras died on Jan. 13, 2021 when a bulldozer he was operating broke through the ice of a frozen tailings pond at Suncor’s Base Plant near Fort McMurray. His body was recovered on Jan. 16.

“The incident in 2021 was incredibly sad and we continue to keep Patrick’s family, friends and co-workers in our thoughts,” a spokesperson for Suncor told the Journal of Commerce.

“However, it would be inappropriate to comment on a case that is before the courts.” None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Christina River, part of the Fort McMurray First Nation Group of Companies, is facing nine charges related to Poitras’ death.

Several of the charges allege a failure of process in ensuring the ice was safe for the bulldozer to be on.

According to the charges, Poitras was allegedly told to drive on the ice even though the ice had been measured as less than 17 inches thick. Suncor’s own safety plan requires a thickness of 17 inches.

Christina River is also charged with failing to use radar to determine the ice thickness and failing to test if it could handle the load of the vehicle.

Other charges paint a grim picture of Poitras’ death.

The construction company was charged with failing to ensure Poitras was wearing a personal floatation device (PFD) and failing to ensure a safety plan was in place that required the dozer doors to be open and the seatbelt unbuckled when on ice.

Suncor is facing 19 charges under the act.

Many of the charges are similar to the ones against Christina River, such as failing to ensure the safety of the ice before sending Poitras out, a lack of a PFD and no safety plan in place regarding doors and the seatbelt.

But Suncor also faces several duplicate and unique charges due to its status as the prime contractor.

These include failing to take the weight of snow into account when working on a frozen pond and failure to ensure the site was under the supervision of an ice engineer.

Alberta OH&S does not release any of its fatality investigation reports until after court proceedings have concluded.

There will be a plea hearing for the charges on March 15, in room 203 of the Fort McMurray provincial courthouse, a court spokesperson confirmed.

Christina Rivers did not respond to a request for comment before publication.

Follow the author on Twitter @JOC_Evan.

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