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Coroner's inquest begins 25 years after eastern Ontario workplace death

·2 min read
The workplace incident that killed Jesus Revilla Sanchez happened at this location in Perth, Ont., in 1996. (Radio-Canada - image credit)
The workplace incident that killed Jesus Revilla Sanchez happened at this location in Perth, Ont., in 1996. (Radio-Canada - image credit)

In December 1996, construction worker Jesus Revilla Sanchez died in a workplace incident in Perth, Ont., but inexplicably, a coroner's inquest never took place.

After further review, the inquest begins today, 25 years later, to examine the details around his tragic fall.

Revilla Sanchez, who was 38, died after plunging 13 metres from scaffolding inside a silo under construction. He had worked as a concrete finisher for Bellai Brothers Construction Ltd.

Investigators at the time found many safety deficiencies. For instance, Revilla Sanchez was not wearing fall-arrest protection and there were no guardrails around the platform on which he was working.

The Ontario Court of Justice ruled then "none of the defendants have shown anywhere near the amount of diligence that could be considered reasonable and due." Bellai Brothers Construction and supervisor Léo Simard, among others, were convicted and fined.

According to the Ontario Coroners Act, an inquest has to take place after a workplace death on a construction site.

That legal requirement was in effect in 1996, but an inquest was never held.

Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa Citizen

Coroner 'perplexed' by missed inquest

Radio-Canada discovered the anomaly while investigating another workplace fatality — one that killed Olivier Bruneau.

Bruneau also worked for Bellai Brothers Construction and Simard when he was crushed by a block of ice on a construction site in Ottawa in 2016. Claridge Homes, Bellai Brothers, Simard and Michael Lwow were fined in connection with his death.

Supplied
Supplied

Radio-Canada asked for the coroner's report into the death of Revilla Sanchez in 2017, and that's when regional supervising coroner, Louise McNaughton-Filion, discovered a coroner's inquest never happened despite the legal obligation.

At the time, McNaughton-Filion said she was "perplexed" as to why an inquest had not been called. She decided to call one, even though many years had passed, and it took four more years to get the inquest started.

McNaughton-Filion says her office had a difficult time reaching the victim's family, which partly caused the delay, in addition to logistical challenges caused by the pandemic. She sees this inquest as a way to prevent other deaths and to honour the victim.

"The coroner's motto is we speak for the dead to protect the living. If there is a chance to learn something from Mr. Revilla Sanchez's death, I think it's important that we look at it," she said.

"It's absolutely certain that there have been changes in processes and the way things are done on construction sites since then. But there may be some things that can be changed or recommendations that can be made."

The inquest begins at 9:30 a.m. Monday via video-conference, and is expected to last two days. The public can watch through the coroner's office YouTube channel.

The date has not been set for the coroner's inquest into the Bruneau's death.

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