Two companies, three men plead guilty in connection with mushroom farm incident
Victim’s daughter says family hopes jail time is imposed after 3 killed, 2 permanently injured
By Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun May 14, 2011
Two companies and three men pleaded guilty Friday to failing to ensure the health and safety of three Langley mushroom-farm workers who died in 2008 and two others who suffered brain damage.
The companies, A-1 Mushroom Substratum Ltd. and H.V. Truong Ltd., along with three directors and supervisors, will be sentenced Sept. 16 at Surrey Provincial Court.
They pleaded guilty to contravening the Workers’ Compensation Act and health and safety regulations.
The maximum penalty for the offences is a $619,271 fine and six months in jail.
Ut Tran, Jimmy Chan and Han Pham died on Sept. 5, 2008, after being overcome by toxic gas from composting inside a barn on the farm at 23751 16th Ave.
Their coworkers, Michael Phan and Thang Tchen, suffered irreversible brain damage after breathing in hydrogen sulphide and ammonia.
Phan, 39, has been in a vegetative state since he rushed into the barn on the property to try to save his coworkers from a poisonous gas leak.
His daughter Tracy, 15, said the family isn’t happy about the pleas to a few charges.
“I hope they do some jail time,” said the Sir Winston Churchill secondary student.
His doctor at the George Pearson Centre suggested last year that Phan should be recognized as a hero.
“For all intents and purposes, he sacrificed his ‘healthy’ life, in a vain attempt to rescue his colleagues,” Dr. Rainer Borkenhagen said at the time. The tragedy, however, led to a sad reunion with Michael Phan’s longlost father, Chuck Fish, a U.S. helicopter pilot who fought in Vietnam and didn’t know he had fathered a child during the war.
After the Langley accident, Phan’s daughter Tracy tracked down Fish in Texas via the Internet. Fish met his bedridden son for the first time last year after the Texan flew to Vancouver.
A total of 29 charges were laid last August after a 20-month investigation by WorkSafeBC into what went wrong at the mushroom composting facility at 23751 16th Avenue in Langley.
The probe was initially delayed because of the presence of hazardous materials in the composting operation for seven months following the tragedy.
The mushroom composting operation ceased after the accident, but the mushroom farm still is operating.
In addition to A-1 Mushroom Substratum Ltd. and H.V. Truong Ltd., charged were laid against three brothers involved in H.V. Truong Ltd. -Ha Qua Truong, Vy Tri Truong, and Van Thi Truong -as well as A-1 owner and supervisor Thinh Huu Doan.
Ha Qua Truong, Van Thi Truong and Thinh Huu Doan pleaded guilty to a number of charges, including failing to provide proper training and failing to eliminate a safety hazard.
Charges against Vy Tri Truong were stayed because of insufficient evidence.
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