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Canada 'Clearly a tragedy,' judge rules as worker fined $4,500 in friend's 'preventable' death

20:35  15 january  2020
20:35  15 january  2020 Source:   ottawacitizen.com

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a woman wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Tracey Anne Millsop died after a fall while helping friend at an Ottawa construction site. Tracey Anne Millsop died after a fall while helping friend at an Ottawa construction site.

The death of Tracey Anne Millsop on May 3, 2018, was “clearly a tragedy,” a judge ruled in fining Cory Peters $4,500 after he pleaded guilty to violating an Ontario safety regulation at the work site where his friend Millsop fell and later died from her injuries.

“There’s nothing I can say to make this better,” said an emotional Peters, 37, after pleading guilty Tuesday to one non-criminal count under the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

“The penalty to Mr. Peters far exceeds the fine,” Ontario Court Justice Norm Boxall said. “What he’s living with and the knowledge he has. It is a tragedy, and the law (under these regulations) is intended to prevent tragedies, not punish them after the fact.”

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Boxall highlighted the differences between dealing with individuals and corporate entities under the law, saying while he had “no doubt Mr. Peters is undergoing psychological trauma, corporations don’t experience human emotions.”

Sucasa Construction Corp. pleaded not guilty to similar non-criminal violations. The company’s defence lawyers previously said Peters was “not acting on behalf” of Sucasa at the time. The workplace-safety charge against Sucasa has not been tested in court.

The case against co-accused TC United and site supervisor Michael Cook, who hired Sucasa to do the demolition on the building and was present at the time, was adjourned after a brief hearing Tuesday and is set to return to court in March.

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Peters sat alone in the front pew behind his lawyer Joshua Clarke and held his head in his hands as the agreed facts of the incident were read into the record.

Millsop, 47, went with her husband Fonze Latourelle that day in May 2018 to help their friend Peters clear debris from an interior demolition job he supervised on Cambridge Street South.

The sheathing on the first floor had been removed and according to the facts read in court, Millsop fell through a gap between wooden planks on a makeshift pathway.

Millsop fell between two floor joists and hit her ribs, and though she remained conscious after the fall and told her friends she didn’t want to go to the hospital, she lost consciousness on the van ride home to Gatineau. Her husband drove her to Gatineau hospital where she died from her injuries.

The coroner concluded Millsop died because her ribs had punctured her liver.

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The Ministry of Labour investigated and concluded the temporary flooring at the construction site was not secured properly and failed to cover the open area, leaving the joists exposed, according to a ministry report filed by prosecutors.

Peters pleaded guilty to contravening construction regulations by failing to properly ensure the protective covering was completely secured in the workplace.

“This was clearly a tragedy,” Boxall said. “And clearly it was preventable.”

Millsop’s grieving family provided victim impact statements to be read for the court.

“My wife was and will always be my everything,” Latourelle wrote, describing the little things he misses and the big challenges he faces in coping with her sudden loss. He said he still has trouble driving his van without recalling his wife dying in the passenger seat beside him.

“Everything is a loss because I won’t get my wife back,” he wrote.

Peters grew emotional and kept his head bowed as Millsop’s daughter described the “hole that can’t be filled” in her life after her mother’s death.

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“My mom always tried to please others and this is what took her away,” Millsop’s daughter said.

Boxall extended his own sympathies, saying, “No amount in a fine would possibly represent the value of a human life or the loss felt by the family.”

The judge acknowledged the $4,500 fine is on the lower end of the scale of penalties that are intended primarily as a deterrent, but called the circumstances a “totally different situation” from others in case law. “This is not the same as a corporation cutting corners to save costs,” Boxall noted.

Peters showed in his apology to the family and in his conduct in court that he was “genuinely remorseful,” the judge said.

Clarke said the fine will have a “significant impact” on Peters and his family. He was given 18 months to pay, plus a victim surcharge.

“I just want to give the (Millsop) family some closure,” said Peters, who is married with three young children.

“As much as we’d like to we can’t turn it back, but you’ve done everything you can,” Boxall said, citing his early guilty plea, his remorse and the personal loss of a friend in the incident.

“You’ll have the fine to pay and you’ll have this to live with.

“It’s important, too, that you have some form of closure.”

ahelmer@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/helmera

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