Eastway Explosion: Hold sight through debris while continuing lethal explosion probe

A number of investigative teams were at work Saturday at the smashed remains of Eastway Tank, Pump and Meter Ltd.

Article content

A number of investigative teams were at work Saturday at the shattered remains of Eastway Tank, Pump and Meter Ltd., where six people are believed to have died in a massive explosion and fire Thursday afternoon.

Advertising

Article content

For most of the day, an orange excavator removed debris from the front of the building on Merivale Road, surrounded by a large police command post, Ottawa Fire Service trucks and personnel and staff from both the fire marshal’s provincial office and the Technical Standards & Safety Authority.

The TSSA handles public safety on behalf of the Government of Ontario’s several areas, including boilers and “pressure vessels” and fuel handling. It expects to have an investigator on site in about a week.

The explosion and fire in the family-owned company is the city’s worst industrial tragedy in nearly 60 years. Five people were missing and presumed dead inside the building, while a sixth died at the hospital on Friday night. Although access to the site was controlled, it was clear from a distance that a large part of the roof was missing from the industrial building, which appears to have four oversized sections at the rear.

Advertising

Article content

Ottawa and the District Labor Council are closely following the various investigations.

President Sean McKenny said the organization expects police to conduct a criminal investigation, in addition to investigations conducted by the Department of Labor, fire and the forensic pathologist.

Ottawa Police Services has said the arson will be the leading investigative unit for the force.

“We want to be on this pretty tight,” McKenny said Saturday.

McKenny said Eastway is not a union store and usually a union will closely monitor investigations following a workplace tragedy.

“We want to be all over the place because someone has to pay a fine. It’s not good enough to say, hey, something happened here,” McKenny said.

Advertising

Article content

“Someone has to take responsibility, and that responsibility has to go towards making sure that such a thing does not happen again,” he said. “There are six people who have lost their lives and it’s so discouraging.”

The Glens Community Association is concerned about potential soil contamination due to the industrial fire.

The housing community is a unique area in the city of Ottawa, as homes are on private services and use wells for drinking water.

Association chairman Brian Kelly and vice president Agnes Warda said they have raised community concerns about the city.

Kelly estimates there are 300 meters that separate the nearest home in the community to the Eastway fire site.

“Authorities have assured us that the immediate risk to groundwater is very low,” Kelly said, but residents are also concerned about long-term consequences.

Advertising

Article content

The association has been told that Ontario’s Department of the Environment is responsible for ensuring that any pollutants are cleaned up, but Warda noted that the city of Ottawa is also responsible for monitoring wells in the area.

The community association has asked the city to contact a local representative of the Ministry of the Environment about the situation.

“All early indications are, for people in the Pine Glen area, for example, that things are safe,” Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. said Keith Egli. “The water is okay. But I have asked the staff to continue investigating it.”

Eastway was started by Brian Greene in 1968 and has been run by his son Neil for the past 30 years. It builds tankers to be used to transport oil, gas and water and has shipped its vehicles worldwide. It also performs repair work.

Advertising

Article content

In a statement Friday, Greene said he was devastated by the news and promised to do whatever was necessary to find out what caused an explosion so large that it shot 18-meter flames up. in the air with a force described as equal to an earthquake.

The names of the dead and missing have not been released, but the family of Rick Bastien, a mechanic and welder, has acknowledged in online postings in Luskville, Que. resident died in the fire.

Ottawa fire officials say a media briefing is scheduled for Sunday.

Advertising

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments can take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications – you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, which is an update to a comment thread you follow, or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your e-mail settings.

Give a Comment