Charges laid in Christmas Eve scaffolding collapse
TORONTO - The owner of a Toronto construction company and two others charged in a deadly scaffolding collapse in Toronto last Christmas Eve have each been released on $10,000 bail.
Four migrant workers who were repairing concrete balconies at an apartment building died when they plummeted 13 storeys to the ground when their swing stage scaffolding broke.
A fifth suffered serious injuries but a sixth man, who had attached himself to a lifeline, was uninjured.
Joel Swartz, 51, of Toronto, owner of Metron Construction Corp., Vadim Kazenelson, 35, of Gormley, Ont., and Benny Saigh, 52, of Toronto, surrendered to police Wednesday morning.
The three men and Metron Construction Corp. each face four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
The maximum penalty for criminal negligence causing death is life in prison.
The next court appearance in the case is Nov. 3.
The case is "precedent setting," said lead Toronto police Det. Kevin Sedore in an interview.
Police interviewed dozens of witnesses including engineers, families of the victims, current and past employees and the Ministry of Labour in their "very long and in-depth investigation," said Sedore.
"I think it's also going to be a wake-up call for supervisors and persons who are directing work and details," said Sedore, who called the deaths a preventable tragedy.
A publication ban was imposed on evidence presented at the bail hearing. None of the allegations has been proven in court.
Metron, along with Swing N Scaff of Ottawa, had previously been charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Aleksey Blumberg, 32, of Ukraine, Alexander Bondorev, 25, originally from Latvia, Fayzullo Fazilov, 31, and Vladimir Korostin, 40, both originally from Uzbekistan, were killed when the scaffolding broke.
Dilshod Marupov, who was seriously injured, has launched a $16.3 million lawsuit.
The 22-year-old man from Uzbekistan was in hospital for several months with a broken spine and crushed legs following the incident.
The case is the first time there has been a prosecution in Ontario under the Bill C-45, also known as the Westray Bill.
Since the passage of C-45, more than 400 Ontario workers have been killed at work, the Ontario Federation of Labour said.
OFL president Sid Ryan, who has campaigned for criminal charges and changes to working conditions since the incident, said in an interview he's "delighted" charges have been laid.
Ryan said it would send an important signal out to senior managers and CEOs "that if a worker is killed in your workplace as a result of negligence on behalf of the employer you will find yourself in the courts and possibly facing a jail term."
The OFL said unlike the Health and Safety Act, a sentence under the Criminal Code would not have a maximum financial penalty and those found guilty could face sentences of up to 20 years.
Following the construction deaths, inspectors from Ontario's Ministry of Labour conducted an enforcement blitz at hundreds of construction sites.
Ontario also launched a review into how to better protect workers after a string of deaths on construction sites across the province.
The review panel, headed by Tony Dean, a University of Toronto professor and former deputy minister of labour, is expected to issue a report before Christmas, Ryan said.