Company, directors guilty in 2008 Toronto propane plant explosion

The directors of a Toronto propane facility have been found guilty of workplace safety and environmental violations in the 2008 explosion that killed a worker and a firefighter and forced the evacuation of 12,000 people from their homes.

Sunrise Propane Energy Group and directors Shay Ben-Moshe and Valery Belahov were convicted of nine of the 10 charges against them. Two charges fell under the Ontario Health and Safety Act, while seven were under the Ontario Environmental Protection Act.

Sunrise employee Parminder Saini was “incinerated” in the Aug. 10, 2008 blast when propane vapours ignited during a truck-to-truck transfer. The explosion created a massive fireball that was visible across the city. Bob Leek, a 55-year-old off-duty Toronto firefighter who responded to the call, died of a heart attack.

The two directors were found guilty of being directors of a corporation that “failed to take all reasonable care to prevent the corporation from contravening a provincial officer’s order,” Justice Leslie Chapin of the Ontario Court of Justice said in her 135-page ruling.

An Ontario Fire Marshal’s report noted that tank-to-tank and truck-to-truck transfers are illegal in the province. The company had been warned about the problem two years prior to the date of the explosion.

Sunrise lawyer, Leo Adler, said he is “disappointed” with the judge’s verdict.

“Nothing can bring back the young man who died,” Adler said after the ruling. “Our thoughts will always be with the family of the young man who died. It was a confluence of factors that were totally unforeseeable.”

Sunrise will be back in court on July 23 for a sentencing date to be set. Sunrise and its directors could face millions of dollars in fines at sentencing.

Another lawyer has also signed up thousands of Downsview residents for a class-action lawsuit against the company.