Companies plead guilty in 2021 tailings pond death

Suncor Energy and Christina River Construction have plead guilty following a 2021 death at a tailings pond.

Patrick Poitras, 25, of Saint-Andre, N.B. was contracted by Christina River Construction and worked at Suncor’s base plant.

On Jan. 13, 2021, he was operating a bulldozer when the ice beneath split open and the vehicle fell through.

Poitras was operating on the ice of the tailings pond even though not all of the test holes met the minimum ice thickness of 17 inches.

This is a threshold required by Suncor’s safety plan.

The ice was also too weak to support rescue workers, who spent more than two days recovering Poitras’ body.


Both companies initially faced 28 charges between them.

Suncor plead guilty to one count under a section of the OHS Act for failing to coordinate work in a way that no person would be exposed to hazards.

Christina River Construction plead guilty to one count that outlines a contractor has a responsibility to not create a risk to the health and safety of any person.

All other charges were dropped.


The companies have been ordered to pay a combined $745,000.

Suncor is paying $420,000 and of that, $370,000 will go toward a program at the University of Alberta.

The program will look at how to identify hazards and understand why they are not controlled.

Christina River Construction is paying $325,000.

Of that, $200,000 will go to the Patrick Poitras Memorial Scholarship and the Patrick Poitras Memorial Safety Award at Keyano College.

$75,000 of the funds will be used to subsidize safety courses.

The remainder of both charges is a fine of $50,000 each to the provincial Victims of Crime Fund.

The companies have been ordered to pay by May 15.

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