Inquest into the death of New Brunswick scrapyard worker to begin next week

SAINT JOHN, N.B. — A coroner’s inquest will be held next week into the death of a 60-year-old man who died from injuries sustained while working at the American Iron and Metal scrapyard in Saint John, N.B., almost two years ago.

The New Brunswick Coroner Service issued a statement today saying deputy chief coroner Michael Johnston and a jury will hear evidence from witnesses to determine the facts surrounding Darrell Richards' death on July 1, 2022.

The jury will make recommendations aimed at preventing deaths under similar circumstances, but they can't make any finding of legal responsibility.

In February, a provincial court judge ordered American Iron and Metal to pay $107,000 into a workplace-safety bursary in Richards' name after the scrap recycler pleaded guilty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing to ensure an employee's safety.

Court heard the scrapyard's employees weren't told how to properly handle loaded calender rolls, which are large cylinders used in printing presses or textile mills, the material of which is held under tremendous pressure around a metal roller.

Richards, a contractor, was badly injured when he used a circular saw to remove the material, which was under 1,500 tonnes of pressure.

The roll ruptured, severing Richards' femoral artery. He died in hospital the next day.

AIM pleaded guilty to failing to take every reasonable precaution to ensure health and safety by failing to communicate the dangers of the calender roll to Richards.

In December 2023, the provincial government revoked American Iron and Metal’s salvage dealer’s licence for its Saint John scrapyard after a massive fire there three months earlier.

The fire, which was the size of three football fields, prompted officials to warn residents across the city to stay indoors and close their windows as an acrid smell wafted over the community.

The scrapyard, which shreds and recycles old vehicles and other scrap metal, was plagued by explosions over the 12 years it operated at the port. And there was another workplace death in November 2021.

The coroner's inquest will be held from June 3 to June 7 at the Saint John courthouse.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2024.

The Canadian Press