October 11, 2014 7:00 pm
Updated: November 1, 2014 5:05 pm

16×9: The story behind the deadly B.C. sawmill explosions


ABOVE: Watch 16×9’s full investigation into what caused the deadly B.C. sawmill explosions.

In early 2012, not one but two sawmill explosions rocked the province of British Columbia. An accumulation of wood dust has been pegged as the culprit in both of the blasts. But how could two nearly identical accidents take place in the span of several months?

On the night of Jan. 20, a fireball shot into the air at the Babine Sawmill in Burns Lake. Two workers were killed. One of them, Robert Luggi, had texted his wife Maureen just moments before the explosion, asking her to pray for him as he went to investigate something in the mill.

An investigation by WorkSafeBC said the accident was preventable. Management was well aware that the dust collection system was insufficient for the size of the operation, the agency said.

WATCH: Maureen Luggi, the widow of Robert Luggi, talks about losing her husband in the Babine Sawmill explosion.

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Then in April, just three months later, a blast ripped through the Lakeland Sawmill in Prince George, B.C. Again, two workers were killed. Again, wood dust was to blame.

But in both cases, no charges were laid. The Crown said WorkSafeBC had botched the investigations by not following due process. The evidence would be inadmissible in court, the Crown said.

READ MORE: How a beetle outbreak may have caused two sawmill explosions in B.C.

Families of the deceased and injured workers have called for an inquiry into the incidents.

“No one is going to shove this under the carpet and say this is the cost of doing business, because it’s unacceptable for our families,” said Maureen Luggi.

WATCH: An extended interview with Greg Chayko, who guesses he was about 100 feet away from ‘ground zero’ when the explosion at the Lakeland mill in Prince George, B.C. occurred.

But B.C. Premier Christy Clark said there will be no inquiry. Instead, she said, the province will focus on getting changes implemented to make sure that accidents like this don’t happen again.

And a coroner’s inquest will take place in March in Prince George, to attempt to figure out what caused the four deaths.


Meantime, the Babine mill is up and running again, while the Lakeland mill will be resuming production soon.

WATCH: Producer Claude Adams talks about the story behind the story.

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