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Farm owner hopes to duck fine for triple fatality

Grief-stricken family and friends pray following the deaths of three people in an industrial accident at a mushroom farm in South Langley in September, 2008. - Langley Times file photo
Grief-stricken family and friends pray following the deaths of three people in an industrial accident at a mushroom farm in South Langley in September, 2008.
— image credit: Langley Times file photo

A Langley farmer is trying to avoid paying a $138,000 fine for the fatal workplace accident that killed three men and left two others permanently brain-damaged.

Ha Qua Truong was turned down when he went before a Surrey Provincial Court judge last month and applied to have the fine set aside on the grounds that his company, H.V. Truong Ltd. is out of business following the sale of the mushroom farm, and is unable to pay.

The judge told Troung cancelling the fine was beyond his jurisdiction.

It is not know if Troung intends to appeal to a higher court.

In 2008, when a pipe burst in a shed used to mix gypsum, chicken manure and water, it released toxic levels of hydrogen sulphide gas that killed farmworkers Ut Tran, Han Pham and Jimmy Chan.

Two men, Tchen Phan and Michael Phan survived, but suffered severe brain damage.

As part of a plea bargain, a Surrey judge imposed fines of $350,000 against Van Thi Truong, Ha Qua Truong, Thinh Huu Doan and the companies they operated — A-1 Mushroom Substratum Ltd. and H.V. Truong Ltd.

A-1 Mushroom Substratum Ltd. went bankrupt without paying its share of $230,000.

Of the three smaller personal fines, two have been paid in full, one in part.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that some of the evidence uncovered about the deaths could not be used because WorkSafe BC investigators had violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A report by deputy minister to the premier John Dyble said the WorkSafe investigators who probed the September 2008 A-1 Mushroom Farms deaths ignored a 2002 Supreme Court of Canada decision that ruled anyone who is the target of an investigation that could result in criminal charges has the same rights as someone being questioned by police.

That includes the right to have legal counsel present during questioning, the right against self-incrimination and the right to refuse to turn over evidence without a search warrant.

The Dyble report didn’t specify exactly whose rights were violated during the investigation of the Langley incident, or which statements were excluded, or who made them.

Eventually, 29 charges were laid under the Workers Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations against A-1 Mushroom Substratum Ltd., H.V. Truong Ltd. and four people.

Three of the accused pleaded guilty to 10 charges, while charges against a fourth person were dropped as part of the plea bargain.

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