'I still feel the vibration in my body. It's very scary'
A multi-organization investigation is under way into an explosion at a construction site in the east Ottawa neighbourhood of Orleans Monday morning that injured 12 people, including four workers.
The blast decimated four homes that were still under construction, but it also caused significant damage to other homes in the residential subdivision that were complete, and occupied by families.
With everyone safe and accounted for, several parallel investigations are now underway into what triggered this potentially catastrophic event. The Ministry of Labour, the Ottawa Police Service, The Office of the Fire Marshall, and the Technical Standards & Safety Authority are all trying to figure out what went wrong.
The Ministry of Labour assigned two inspectors to attend the scene and it has identified MINTO COMMUNITIES INC. as the constructor on the project. “Two of the workers were employed by a self-employed contractor and two workers were employed by Woody Interior Finishing Inc.” reads a statement from the ministry sent to Canadian Occupational Safety, referring to the workers who were hurt.
The ministry says there was also a secondary employer involved, Potvin Construction Ltd. The ministry has issued three requirements, two to MINTO and one to Potvin.
In a statement to CTV News, MINTO president Brent Strachan confirmed the explosion was triggered by a gas leak.
“Minto team members are on-site to address the needs of impacted community members and we have opened our model homes to keep evacuated residents warm and comfortable," he said. "We are working with authorities to identify the cause of the explosion and fully cooperating in the investigation."
Everyone within a 300-metre radius of the blast site was told to leave their homes. Residents say it sounded like an earthquake. One person said the roof of their garage collapsed. “We just heard a very loud noise. We didn't know what was happening,” said Yvette Ashiri. "I still feel the vibration in my body. It's very scary."
The Office of the Fire Marshall (OFM) is on scene and has isolated the exact location of the blast. OFM public relations officer, Sean Driscoll says “aerial footage obtained by drone is being collected to assess the extent of the damage and provide critical details to further determine what occurred.” It has now begun an excavation of the scene which is expected to last several days.
The Technical Standards & Safety Authority administers Ontario’s rules and regulations related to the transportation, utilization, and storage of fuels, including natural gas.
Alexandra Campbell is a TSSA spokesperson and says it sent a fuels safety investigator and an inspector to the scene and they are “experts in fuels safety and will provide their expertise to make the site safe and to help determine the cause of the incident.”
The TSSA helped make sure the gas was properly shut off to the area and confirmed there is no leaking gas at or near the site. “TSSA will work with the other officials involved to help determine the cause of the incident and to establish if there was any non-compliance with the fuels safety regulations that would have contributed to the cause of the incident,” says Campbell.
This is the second gas explosion this year in Canada. Three workers died in a blast at Propane Lafortune in Quebec in January.
It’s also the second big explosion in Ottawa in just over a year. Six workers were killed at Eastway Tank, Pump & Meter in January 2022.
Given the multi-layered investigation into this latest incident in Ottawa, it will likely be months before we know exactly what led up to this destructive event. Thankfully, nobody lost their lives.