Ryan Belcourt was likely the last person to talk to Robert Luggi.
Belcourt, the sawmill supervisor at Babine Forest Products’ Burns Lake sawmill, was investigating why one of the edgers had broken down shortly before 8 p.m. on the evening of January 20, 2012. He met Luggi at chipper #2, he told the seven-member coroner’s jury looking into the death of Luggi and Carl Charlie. The blast also injured 19 others.
“He was trying to figure out why the chipper was down,” Belcourt said, adding Luggi had called in an electrician to look at the edger and the last he saw of him, Luggi was headed up to the log deck on the other side of the mill.
Belcourt then exited the main sawmill building and was just outside the sawmill office door when an explosion blew a hole in the roof and, according to WorksafeBC investigator Paul Orr, launched a 1,000-pound fan 60 feet into the yard.
“The first thing I remember is the power going out and getting knocked down the stairwell,” he told the jury. “I felt a pressure on my shoulder and my head and there was a rumbling sound.”
That was the first part of what is typical of a deflagration, or subsonic explosion, as described by Orr. The second explosion in such circumstances is usually larger and more devastating.
“I saw an electrician fly out of a window into the parking lot,” Belcourt said. “You could see debris falling down from above … At that point I was thinking about everyone in the building, how to get them out and calling 911.”
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