Manager found guilty in deadly 2009 scaffolding collapse handed 3.5 year sentence

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WATCH ABOVE: Six years after a scaffolding collapsed killing four workers, the project manager involved in the incident has been sentenced to prison. But as Caryn Lieberman reports, with an appeal under way, he could remain a free man – Jan 11, 2016

TORONTO — A Toronto project manager found guilty in a scaffolding collapse which killed four members of his construction crew was sentenced to three and half years in prison on Monday.

Vadim Kazenelson was found guilty in June on four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

“I think his honour had a difficult job and as he said with much anxious consideration — he came to the conclusion that three and a half years, concurrent on each count, was appropriate,” said Crown Attorney Michelle Direnfeld.

Kazenelson has apologized for his role in the collapse and said he lives with the pain of what happened every day.

He was led away in handcuffs following his sentencing but was released on bail Monday afternoon as his lawyer appeals the case.

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READ MORE: Company fined in 2009 scaffolding collapse that killed 4 workers

The judge presiding over the case, Justice Ian MacDonnell, found Kazenelson was aware that fall protections were not in place, but still allowed his workers to board a swing stage which collapsed.

MacDonnell said the sentence he imposed was proportionate to the gravity of Kazenelson’s offences.

“The seriousness of the offences committed by Mr. Kazenelson and their consequences cannot be doubted,” he said.

“A significant term of imprisonment is necessary to reflect the terrible consequences.”

The Crown prosecutor in the case recommended between four to five years in prison, while Kazenelson’s lawyer argued for a sentence of one to two years.

Metron Construction was hit with a fine of up to $1 million and the guilty conviction was the first of its kind in Ontario under the Criminal Code.

“It will serve as a precedent for future cases. But as the judge said, each case is going to be decided on its own facts and criminal negligence causing death can be an offence that happens in many, many, many difference circumstances,” said Direnfeld.

The incident occurred on Christmas Eve in 2009, when high-rise scaffolding snapped, sending four workers plunging to their deaths and leaving one badly injured.

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Between 80 and 90 workers a year die in Ontario on average in workplace mishaps, according to provincial statistics.

Ontario Federation of Labour President Chris Buckley said the sentence sends a strong message to employers across the province.

“An employer should have shivers up their spines today. It will not be tolerated any longer,” said Buckley.

“Families have been destroyed here. Families of the workers who were killed. The judge was fair. But this is not about profits any longer. This is about health and safety. This is about lives of workers.”

With files from The Canadian Press and Will Campbell

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