‘Our hearts were broken:’ Family mourns son killed in workplace accident

Angry father interrupts apology at sentencing

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CALGARY — The grieving father of a young man who died in a workplace accident in Alberta’s oilsands region interrupted a courtroom apology Friday from one of the owners of a company that pleaded guilty in the death.

Jordan Gahan, who was 21 and from Fredericton, was operating heavy equipment at a Suncor pit that was being reclaimed near Fort McMurray when his excavator fell through ice into four metres of water. His co-workers were able to get him to the surface, but he died in hospital. 

Brayford Trucking Ltd. pleaded guilty to two of five charges under Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing to protect Gahan as an employee.

“There’s no words or actions or anything that can possibly express to you how sorry we are and you no longer have your son. We can’t even begin to imagine the pain and suffering that’s associated with losing a child,” co-owner Susan Brayford said in a statement to the court Friday.

“We’re so very, very sorry.”

Brayford was interrupted by Paul Gahan.

“I apologize to the court, but it’s just too much,” he yelled.

Judge Harry Van Harten allowed Gahan to address the court, but with a warning.

“I totally appreciate how difficult a day this is for you, but it is for everyone that’s here,” he said. “I’m happy to hear what you have to say. Just do it in a respectful way please.”

Gahan said he appreciated that the Brayfords had “stepped up to the plate” and changed their safety policies.

“It’s sad that it has to come at the cost of my dear son. On March 14, 2014, I was sentenced to … basically life in prison with no chance of parole until I die. I was sentenced by the incompetence and the capabilities that didn’t follow procedures properly,” Gahan said.

Six pictures of his son were placed in the courtroom to give the family comfort. Leica Gahan, Jordan’s mother, said she didn’t want to believe the RCMP when they told her that he had died.

“I begged and pleaded with the RCMP that they had made a mistake. They made no mistake. Our son was gone and our hearts were broken,” she said.

“I know that grieving for Jordan will last a lifetime. I will grieve for him until the day we are reunited in heaven. Losing my son Jordan was the worst thing that could ever happen to me in my 50 years on this earth.”

The court imposed a fine of $100,000 as well as two years of corporate probation under the Criminal Code.

“It was a meaningless and preventable death,” said Van Harten.

But there are mitigating factors, including changes to safety measures at the company and the plea of guilty, he added.

Van Harten also noted there was also a personal apology and expression of sorrow from the Brayfords, whom he described as “conscientious contributing citizens of the community.”

“The Brayfords are clearly not hiding behind the corporate shield as they might legally be allowed to do. Unlike some corporations … this company is not going to pay a penalty and move on and consider the penalty the simple cost of doing business.”

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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