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October 28, 2017 5:22 am

WorkSafeBC Investigative Lead to Continue Testimony

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 @ 3:58 AM

Prince George, B.C. – Paul Orr was WorkSafe BC’s lead investigator in the Lakeland Mills  explosion and fire. An experienced blast expert with  22 years  of explosion study under his belt with the Canadian Armed Forces,  Orr led the Coroner’s Inquest jury through a methodical  description of how   his team looked for the ignition source of that blast.Orr  presented a number of photos which  detailed the wrecked  mill,  through aerial shots, and  diagrams,  he  explained  how  damage from the  blast  could be back tracked to one  spot,  a location on the lower level, near the 6P conveyor in the north east corner of the mill.

Image after image  showed  evidence of  steel beams bent outwards from the pressure,  saw blades that had been  blown up into the air  then coming to rest  looped over  beams.  Another photo  showed how the top  of a welding  unit had been peeled  back like  the lid on a can of sardines.

Overhead,   evidence the booth  for the large head rig had been shifted.

The blast was powerful enough to send  an 18  foot wide  sliding barn door and the steel rail  on which it hung, flying.  The  pieces  landed about 250 metres away.

Orr made it clear in his testimony, there were  some who  had survived the blast who, had they  been at their normal work stations at the time of the explosion would not have been so  fortunate.

“There are thousands of possible ignition sources in a mill” said Orr, and one by one, they were ruled out. That included the Power Distribution Centre,  as there was  no sign of  electrical arcing or  fire damage inside the units.  He says the  blast damage pattern led back to one area,  and within that area,  there was one suspect,  the cooling fan on the gear reducer  of the 6p conveyor  motor.

A cooling fan’s blade broke free  and slid  along the  gear shaft.  It bcame embedded in a screen where it ground to a halt, althouth the gear shaft kept rotating at 1750 rpm.  The continual  rotation of the gear shaft  caused fictional heat, reaching a temperature of approximately 577 degrees.  They know that was the temperature reached because that’s the temperature at which  the aluminum  fan would start to melt,  and there were definite signs it had  started to melt.

Earlier testimony at the Coroner’s inquest into the deaths of  Alan Little and Glenn Roche  indicated workers  would be alerted to  sounds of  equipment that wasn’t working properly  or  that they could smell  the   start of  a fire.  But  Orr testified  the sound of  a failed  cooling fan might well have been drowned out by the  chipper or other equipment that was operating at the time,  and it would only have taken about 2 minutes for the  friction to create that high heat.

The inquest  continues



Waiting to hear if the fire chief will chime in and suggest that the ambulance attendants could possibly grease these head rigs in their slack time, rather than be restocking their units.

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