Long-awaited coroner's inquest into Olivier Bruneau's death coming in July

·3 min read
Olivier Bruneau was killed March 23, 2016 while he was working at the bottom of a nine-storey deep pit in Ottawa's Little Italy neighbourhood. He was struck by falling ice.  (Facebook - image credit)
Olivier Bruneau was killed March 23, 2016 while he was working at the bottom of a nine-storey deep pit in Ottawa's Little Italy neighbourhood. He was struck by falling ice. (Facebook - image credit)

The coroner's inquest into the death of Olivier Bruneau, who was crushed by a chunk of falling ice in an Ottawa construction site almost six years ago, has been scheduled for this summer.

CBC/Radio-Canada has learned the inquest will start on July 25 and is expected to last five days.

"It's about time that this inquest takes place. It will [have been] six years since the accident where Olivier lost his life and during all of these years the family has wondered exactly what happened on that day," said his father Christian Bruneau in an interview with Radio-Canada.

"I don't think it's fair to hold a family hostage like this for six years waiting for answers."

Radio-Canada
Radio-Canada

Developer Claridge is now inviting people to come live in its Icon condominium tower at the corner of Preston Street and Carling Avenue.

But on March 23, 2016, Olivier Bruneau was working at the bottom of its nine-storey deep construction pit when a slab of ice detached from one of the excavation walls and crushed him to death. The Gatineau, Que., surveyor was 24 years old.

According to information obtained by CBC/Radio-Canada, the coroner's inquest will focus on four points:

  1. Safety protocols for the work site, particularly ice removal and mitigation of dangers posed by falling ice.

  2. Protocols for site inspection, including any follow-up site inspection, once safety concerns had been raised.

  3. The criteria for reopening the site after being closed for safety reasons.

  4. The creation of exclusion zones.

The last two points refer to an incident that happened on the same construction site in February 2016, when another worker was hit by a piece of ice but escaped without serious injury.

In fact, three similar incidents happened on the same work site in the months before Bruneau's fatal accident, as was revealed in a 2018 CBC/Radio-Canada investigation.

Giacomo Panico/CBC
Giacomo Panico/CBC

Christian Bruneau said the four points reflect his family's own questions.

"There were inspectors from the Ministry of Labour, safety committees, supervisors with a lot of experience, but the site was operated in violation of the code for many months until the day of the accident," he said.

"I'm very puzzled as to how this could happen."

2019 trial averted by plea

The Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act clearly states that walls of excavation sites must be cleared of unstable rocks and other material that could slip, roll or fall on workers.

In 2019, the family hoped a trial under that act would shed light on the circumstances of Olivier Bruneau's death.

It was averted when Claridge Homes, subcontractor Bellai Brothers Construction and two supervisors pleaded guilty to not ensuring that the excavation wall was cleared of material that could fall on workers. They were fined.

The mandate of the coroner's inquest is to make recommendations to avoid further deaths.

But for the Bruneau family, who will have the right to examine witnesses, it will be the opportunity to find answers to the questions that have haunted them for almost six years.

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