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Five years later, Burns Lake mill explosion leaves families seeking justice and healing

Five years ago tonight, an explosion at the Babine Forest Products Mill in Burns Lake killed two workers and injured 20 more.

Maureen Luggi lost her husband Robert that night. She says, while the pain of that loss has faded, the incident still affects the lives of all involved – including the 20 workers who survived.

“Some of them, their lives have not been the same. They’re still recovering and still moving forward from all of the trauma that occurred that night. I always consider the parents of Robert and Carl because I don’t have any idea what it’s like to lose a child but unfortunately they do.”

Luggi says she and other affected families still want justice but most are focused on healing.

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She says the province has been keeping her informed about the implementation of some recommendations made in the wake of the explosion.

No criminal charges were filed following WorkSafe BC’s investigation into the incident but Babine Forest Products was fined $1 million. Calls for a public inquiry went unanswered. The province’s Chief Coroner did conduct an inquest into the deaths. Luggi says, while some good has come from the incident, it doesn’t feel like enough.

“For the time being, the families are needing to rest and needing to just heal from all of this. The inquest did provide for some of that but not 100%. While I still say that those recommendations have been well thought out, the only sad thing about it is that they’re not enforceable.”

She says she and others affected by the tragedy will be thinking of their loved ones tonight.

“We’re just asking people to remember – at 8:10 pm – Robert and Carl and all of the injured workers and just to take time for a moment of silence and to remember the families and how this explosion impacted the community of Burns Lake and all of the families that were part of it.”

Luggi and other affected families have been supporting each other in various ways – including a memorial Facebook group Families United for Justice.

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