The first Nova Scotian charged under the so-called Westray Law has been found not guilty of criminal negligence causing death for the fire that took the life of an employee at an auto-repair business.
Elie Hoyeck was charged after a September 2013 minivan fire at his Cole Harbour, N.S., auto shop killed mechanic Peter Kempton. Hoyeck pleaded not guilty and was tried by judge alone in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax.
The court has heard that Kempton was using an acetylene torch to remove the gas tank from a derelict minivan when the vehicle caught fire at Your Mechanic Auto Corner.
An expert witness, David Giles, also testified the garage was not a safe place to work, and had numerous trip hazards, fire hazards, electrical issues and other safety concerns.
In his decision on Friday, Justice James Chipman said based on Giles’s testimony it was clear that Hoyeck’s business was an “accident waiting to happen.” He added that after reviewing evidence, he has great difficulty believing that anything Hoyeck had to say was reliable.
But he said that he rejects the prosecution’s argument that Hoyeck instructed Kempton to use the torch to remove the gas tank.
He also said that Kempton was a trained mechanic and that it was his own negligence that led to the fire.
The Westray Bill was introduced after the 1992 Westray mine disaster in Plymouth, N.S., that killed 26 miners. It is a Criminal Code amendment aimed at making it easier to hold employers accountable for deaths or injuries in the workplace.