'Joke gone bad': Reality TV stunt leads to charges under the Yukon Waters Act

Reality TV star fined $31K for filmed stunt in Yukon

A "joke gone bad" is how one of the stars of the program Gold Rush describes the incident that's landed him in Yukon Territorial Court this week, defending himself and his company on pollution charges.

Dawson City, Yukon, resident Tony Beets was charged after an episode of Gold Rush aired on the Discovery Channel showing gasoline being poured into a dredge pond on Beets' claims on the Indian River, then lit on fire.

With flames blazing in the background, Beets is shown expressing pride in his accomplishment.

He was later charged under the Yukon Waters Act with allowing the stunt to take place and not reporting it.

The man who poured the gas, Mark Favron, testified in court on Tuesday that Oct. 4, 2014 was his last day of work as a welder for Beets and the stunt was his idea.

He said he asked Beets if it was OK, and Beets "didn't give a f--k," Favron told the court.

Favron told the court he then poured about a gallon of gas into the water and another employee lit it on fire.

Favron said he's already been fined $1,725 after pleading guilty at a previous hearing to pouring the gasoline in the water.

"I did it, so there was no reason to fight it," said Favron.

No special attention for reality shows

The Yukon's chief mining inspector, Robert Savard, said his department received a complaint from Environment Canada officials in Yellowknife after the episode aired on the Discovery Channel in late February 2015.

Savard said reality shows set in the Yukon receive no special attention from authorities.

He said the compliance branch in Yukon's Energy, Mines and Resources department occasionally receives complaints about the mining operations shown on television. Sometimes the activities in question are routine operations, others are a concern, Savard said.

Brendan Mulligan, the senior water quality scientist for the Yukon government, testified gasoline contains a number of toxins and carcinogens. He said they can harm humans, other animals and aquatic life.

The trial resumes Wednesday afternoon with closing submissions. Defence lawyer André Roothman called no evidence. He said one of the issues he'll be arguing is that Beets' company Tamarack Inc. should not be liable in this case.

Beets said after court wrapped up Tuesday afternoon that too much is being made of what happened.

"Since I am the man running the show, I guess I should have been a little bit more, and told him not to do it," said Beets.

"However I didn't do that, so here you are in court, so take the fine. Next time, don't go there, It's kind of a joke gone bad, right?"