Government Lawyer Admits
Province Bears Some Blame in Westray Tragedy

The first time in eight months of hearings
that anyone employed by the province
has accepted blame for the 1992 disaster

Government Lawyer Admits
Province Bears Some Blame

Endres' Comments Too Little, Too Late

By Beverley Ware

This article appeared in
The Ottawa Citizen
Tuesday, 23 July 1996

STELLARTON, N.S. — The Nova Scotia government failed the 26 men who died in the Westray coal mine, a government lawyer said at the conclusion of hearings into the explosion.

"We now know that we could and should have done better," Reinhold Endres said Monday as he presented the province's summation to the inquiry.

It was the first time in eight months of hearings that anyone employed by the province has accepted blame for the 1992 disaster.

Evidence presented during the hearings painted damning portraits of several parties, including provincial mining inspectors and politicians. Endres said criticism has been legitimate.

"We all appreciate that the deceased and their families were let down; they deserve better," said the Halifax lawyer.

But neither the admission of guilt nor the apology meant much to relatives of the miners who died underground when a buildup of methane and coal dust exploded May 9, 1992.

"It definitely wasn't from the heart," said Allen Martin, whose brother Glenn was killed in the blast.

A lawyer for the Westray families dismissed Endres' comments as too little, too late.

Brian Hebert called inspectors "woefully inadequate" and "irresponsible" for failing to act on safety violations, saying they turned their backs on the miners.

Hebert called for a "complete housecleaning within the departments involved in this disaster."

Endres said inspectors failed in their duties at Westray, that they were too closely aligned with mine management and not accessible to the miners.

But Endres also said by their own admission, the inspectors didn't have the proper leadership, tools or training to do their jobs.

The lawyer representing former Westray miners charged that the coal mine was allowed to operate in a regulatory vacuum created by politicians who placed economic wealth ahead of worker safety.

Roberts said mine managers Gerald Phillips and Roger Parry are directly responsibility for working conditions because they took complete control of all aspects of the mine.

It's not known when inquiry head Justice Peter Richard will report.

No more witnesses are scheduled.

Go To:   Westray Scrapbook Fifty clippings about the Westray coal mine disaster
Go to:   Main Westray Coal Mine Disaster page
Go to:   Westray Public Inquiry online transcript of testimony
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