The Fernie Memorial Arena remains locked down while the investigation continues. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Fernie, RCMP go to court over city log books in fatal ammonia leak probe

Log books center stage in clashing of investigations between the city and RCMP

The investigation into the fatal ammonia leak that left three men dead has taken an odd turn in a court dispute between the RCMP and the City of Fernie over a set of city-owned log books.

According to online court documents, the city requested that a provincial court judge allow city officials to “inspect and make copies” of a set of internal log books that were seized by the RCMP.

The log books are one piece of evidence in the Mounties’ investigation into October’s ammonia leak at a city-operated arena that left the community in mourning.

The court heard on Dec. 7 that during the recovery of the bodies, the RCMP came into possession of two log books that were kept inside the arena. The books contain detailed information about the operation and maintenance of the refrigeration system that presumably failed and caused the fatalities, documents show.

READ MORE: Investigators hone in on timeline of deadly ammonia leak in Fernie

READ MORE: Replacement outdoor rink opens in time for holidays

Lawyer Glen Purdy, representing the city, argued that the manner in which the RCMP obtained the log books was improper and illegal, because they were obtained without a search warrant and located by a firefighter.

Without the log books, Purdy said the city would not be able to complete their investigation as required by the Workers Compensation Act.

But in court, the RCMP pointed out that according to the act, the city is responsible for carrying out an investigation “as far as possible,” and that it would not be penalized if there are circumstances beyond its control that would prevent them from completing the review.

RCMP further stated that in this matter, the city is not an “investigative agency” such as a police force, and “merely an employer.”

In her decision on Jan. 17, Honourable judge Lynal Doerksen sided with the RCMP that disclosing the seized log books could compromise the integrity of the criminal investigation.

“Given the nature of the incident: multiple fatalities with a possible criminal cause, it is obvious that it would not be in the public interest to jeopardize the RCMP investigation to assist the city with a statutory obligation,” Doerksen said.

Mounties’ criminal investigation continues

Although officials have not provided any updates on the investigation so far this year, RCMP have said they aren’t ruling out criminal charges, such as criminal negligence causing death.

However, “it must be emphasized that at this stage there is only the mere possibly of charges and no discussion or indication of the probability or likelihood of charges,” the RCMP said.

According to court documents, city officials will receive the log books back once the RCMP investigation has concluded either because there were no charges or because the RCMP and the Crown Counsel would have to make full disclosure to the municipality if any charges are announced.

City officials declined to comment on the decision.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

This is only the fourth state of emergency ever issued during a fire season

UPDATE: 5 injured in plane crash following Abbotsford International Airshow

One in critical condition in incident involving vintage plane

Shag Creek area under evacuation order, area expanded

93 properties are being told to evacuate immediately

B.C. Wildfires 2018: Thousands prepare to leave their homes at a moment’s notice

Northwest B.C. and Cariboo seeing most fire activity in province as crews battle 490 fires

‘We will not forget:’ Thousands attend funeral fallen Fredericton officers

Hundreds of officials marched in the parade, which included massed band, several police motorcycles

B.C. man designer behind Canucks’ retro jersey

Jeremie White was 20 years old when he told Canucks assistant GM Brian Burke he had a design

Lions give up late TD in 24-23 loss to Argos

B.C. falls to 3-5, fumbling away last-minute chance in Toronto

Eagle tree cut down legally a 1st for B.C. city

Planned eagle preserve ‘a first for City of Surrey’

Northern B.C. residents face more evacuation orders as some smoke clears up

Regional District of BulkleyNechako issued new, expanded evacuation orders for remote areas Saturday

Smoky skies like a disappearing act for sights, monuments around B.C.

Haze expected to last the next several days, Environment Canada said

Canadians react to death of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan at age 80

Nobel Peace Prize-winning former UN leader died early Saturday following a short illness

44 drownings so far this year in B.C.

Lifesaving Society urging caution to prevent deaths while on lakes, oceans and in pools

Most Read