Nova Scotia mine blast kills 26 30 years ago

The firedamp explosion at the mine in Plymouth, Nova Scotia, killed 26 miners, including his brother Mike.

He loved his motorcycles. He had a chopper model. He loved his family. His children meant everything to him recalls Joe.

Mike was 38 years old. He was the father of two young children.

Like the other employees, he had worked at the mine for only nine months after it opened in September 1991.

An aerial view of the Westray mine, May 11, 1992. Two days earlier, a massive fireball ripped through the mine tunnels, killing 26 miners.

An aerial view of the Westray mine, May 11, 1992. Two days earlier, a massive fireball ripped through the mine tunnels, killing 26 miners.

Photo: The Canadian Press/Kerry Doubleday

A spark from a coal cutting machine ignited a methane leak in the mine shaft. This gas, mixed with coal dust, caused the explosion.

The bodies of 11 miners have never been found. Among them, Mike MacKay.

The only respite I got was that my other brother was supposed to go to work at the mine that night and he changed his mind. He canceled his shift. If it wasn’t for that, he would have been there too. »

A quote from Joe MacKey, brother of a slain miner

On Monday morning, 30 years after the tragic events, a march and ceremonies took place in Plymouth near the memorial.

High school students will also use the day to learn about the impact of the Westray mine disaster on workplace safety rules in Nova Scotia.

The Westray Law

Prior to the explosion, several safety concerns had been raised by employees, union representatives and government inspectors.

Since the tragedy, changes have been made to laws, including how to establish corporate criminal liability for workplace deaths or injuries.

Westray Tragedy Memorial in Pictou, Nova Scotia.

The Westray Tragedy Memorial in Pictou, Nova Scotia.

Photo: Elisa Serret

Bill C-45, commonly known as the Westray Act, came into force in 2004.

Unfortunately, in the first 10 years after this bill was passed, no charges of criminal negligence were laid. I do not believe that this bill has produced the expected results and we still have work to do in this regard. said Danny Cavanaugh, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour.

Prosecutions and charges

A $30 million lawsuit has been filed against the Nova Scotia government on behalf of the families of the deceased miners. The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia dismissed the petition, ruling that the province was protected from lawsuits under the Workers’ Compensation Act.

The company that operated the mine, Curragh Resources, was charged with 52 non-criminal counts of operating an unsafe mine. The company went bankrupt in 1993.

The charges were later dropped after a Nova Scotia judge criticized the way they were brought. The Supreme Court of Canada then ordered a new trial.

Charges of criminal negligence and manslaughter had been filed against mine managers Gerald Phillips and Roger Paris. They came to nothing when the Crown stayed proceedings, saying there was not enough evidence to secure a conviction.

Clifford Frame, founder and managing director of Curragh Resources, refused to testify during a public inquiry, as did Marvin Pelley, former president of the Westray mine.

The inquiry had no federal powers, which meant subpoenas could not be served outside of Nova Scotia, leaving company executives safe at their Toronto headquarters.

rays of light

After the disaster, Joe MacKay was one of the people who pushed for a memorial site. Trees were planted in a park, one for each of the 26 victims.

A memorial to those killed in the explosion at the Westray mine.

The names of the 26 miners who died in the Westray mine explosion 30 years ago stream like rays of light from a miner’s lamp on this memorial.

Photo: CBC/Paul Palmeter / Paul Palmeter

Their names appear in rays of light from a miner’s lamp on a monument in the heart of the park.

Joe MacKay maintains that May 9 is a day he will always reunite with his little brother.

If I’m still alive for the 40th birthday, then I’ll be there promises the now 73-year-old man. It’s something the family believes in and it makes us feel a little closer to our community.

According to information from CBC

Leave a Comment