A family was robbed of a loving grandmother and workers were forever changed by a "freak accident" at a construction site two years ago.
Now, a Winnipeg demolition company has been fined $25,000 for the tragedy that killed 57-year-old Tamara Orellana on April 1, 2019. She was run over by a dump truck that was removing debris at Garden City Shopping Centre on McPhillips Street.
Bulldog Demolition and Excavation Inc. pleaded guilty last month to one count of failing to ensure the safety of people not in its employ, an offence under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.
"We cannot overcome what happened," Orellana’s children wrote in a victim impact statement read out at a sentencing hearing June 10. "They took away the most important person we had without any warning. Our lives will never be the same again."
Under the act, when movement of a vehicle creates a risk to the public, employers are required to develop safety procedures "to ensure effective traffic control," Crown attorney Adam Gingera told provincial court Judge Sandy Chapman.
"There weren’t any specific safe work procedures drafted for that site," Gingera said.
The $25,000 fine was jointly recommended by the Crown and Bulldog Demolition and reflected an admission by Bulldog that "more could have been done" to ensure the safety of the public, Gingera said.
Transit security video showed Orellana exiting a bus at Kingsbury Avenue and McPhillips Street around 3 p.m., crossing the mall parking lot and approaching the demolition scene at the site of the former Sears store, but not her arrival at the site itself.
"This is a really unique situation because we don’t have any direct evidence how (Orellana) wound up having contact with the truck… and that is reflected in the joint recommendation," Gingera said.
Orellana was run over as a dump truck backed into the demolition site to pick up a load of debris. Gingera said an excavator operator helped guide the truck into the site, but "wasn’t in a position to see both the driver and the passenger side of the truck."
"This wasn’t a deliberate oversight, but it was an area where more could have been done," Gingera said.
The driver honked her horn two to five times before she moved both backward and forward to negotiate entry to the demolition site, running over Orellana two times in the process.
Investigators later learned the truck’s passenger-side mirror was positioned in a way that created a large blind spot.
"Essentially, the driver was unable to see where (Orellana) was at the time she was pulling forward," Gingera said, adding shadows and Orellana’s dark clothing further obscured her visibility.
"It was a perfect storm," Gingera said.
Orellana suffered "catastrophic injuries" and died at the scene, Gingera said.
The driver was fully qualified to operate the truck but told investigators she had not received specialized training for that job site, Gingera said.
Since the accident, Bulldog Demolition has changed its practices so that construction vehicles in such situations are guided by two flag people on either side, company owner Eric Fleury told court.
"Since this happened, it has affected every person involved from that day forward," Fleury said. "It has changed us all in ways that nobody can measure."
Fleury said he’s still at a loss to explain how Orellana ended up where she did and described her death as "a freak accident." Fleury speculated she may have suffered a heart attack, noting a victim impact statement provided to court said she had a pacemaker.
Orellana was from Chile and came to Canada 11 years ago "for a better life," her sister wrote in a victim impact statement. Orellana was an active Folklorama volunteer and loving mother and grandmother.
"You had so many plans for you and your family," her sister wrote. "All of that was shattered and taken away on this horrible afternoon."
Court records show the driver of the truck, Jennifer Darling, remains charged with one count of careless driving in relation to the accident. Her next court date is Aug. 3.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.