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“I could see flames flickering and dancing” – Lakeland Survivor Describes Explosion

Thursday, March 5, 2015 @ 5:19 PM

Prince George, B.C. – “I saw the fireball come rolling towards me, I could see flames flickering and dancing ” that’s how Bruce Germyn described to a Coroner’s Jury, the explosion at the Lakeland Mill on April 23rd, 2012.

In his emotional testimony at the Coroner’s Inquest into the deaths of Glenn Roche and Alan Little, Germyn says he was working on the edger machine that night. He said he heard a loud bang “I could feel the floor shake” he paused to regain composure before continuing, “Looking up at the ceiling I could see curtains of sawdust coming down” he raised his hands and, as if playing   on the keys of an invisible piano, demonstrated how sawdust was showering down from the overhead beams . He says he became terrified, “It went into slow motion, I saw the fireball come rolling towards me, I could see flames flickering and dancing.” The next thing he remembers is rolling on the floor, feeling like he was on fire. In fact he was on fire and suffered burns to nearly 40% of his body.

” I remember looking at papers and embers wafting down and thinking ‘what the hell is this?'”

A former volunteer firefighter, Germyn said he knew what could come next and kept mumbling “We gotta go, we gotta go, there’s going to be a flash over” as he encouraged fellow Lakeland worker Greg Chayko to get out of the mill.

He doesn’t remember hearing a second explosion, isn’t even sure if he was conscious when that blast happened, but he remembers the way people in the planer mill looked at him when he walked into that building, he said once he got to the hospital, even his own doctor didn’t recognize him..

He told the jury how he assisted another worker who was having difficulty breathing and that they would have to walk to the road, “I told him if he couldn’t walk with me, I would have to leave him behind.” Taking deep breaths, and exhaling just as strongly he demonstrated how he encouraged his co-worker to breathe in, then breathe out.

Germyn told the jury   that in the months before the explosion he had told   a number of supervisors ” We were one machine away from blowing up – guaranteed.”

As many workers before him, he testified there was a great deal of dust in the mill, “You’d see piles of sawdust everywhere, the walls were coated.”

He suggested the increase in dust in the mill was a combination of factors that included job cuts, job changes, and increased production levels.

Earlier in the day, Charge Hand Richard Crank, a millwright at Lakeland testified   the suction system in the mill had issues, that the system that was supposed to pull the dust out of the air was often down for repairs.

In an effort to reduce the amount of dust hanging in the air, he says he suggested to a supervisor that the mill move to a vacuum system  for cleaning machinery and get rid of the air hoses for blow down ( using compressed air to blow sawdust off equipment). He said the air hoses only kicked up dust to higher levels and would eventually settle back down on the equipment. Crank testified the idea didn’t move forward because he was told it would need a lot of power  to operate effectively, so the practice of blowing the dust into the air continued.

When asked if he could make a recommendation to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again, Crank advised that all fans be set to push air down in a mill, instead of pulling it up.   He was also asked if it was reasonable to shut down all mill production if the suction system (bag house) isn’t working, his answer was a simple “Yes.”.


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