A man may be facing serious jail time for a house explosion in Queen Charlotte this summer that injured people and damaged buildings.
Police have arrested and charged Thomas Daniel Kendall with causing bodily harm by breaching a legal duty to properly store explosives.
The charge has not been proven in court, and Kendall has not yet had a chance to enter a plea — the first court date is set for Jan. 8.
If convicted, Kendall faces a maximum of 14 years in prison.
Sergeant Terry Gillespie of the Queen Charlotte RCMP says he is proud of how hard local officers have worked on the case, and he thanked the community for its support.
“There was a really solid investigation,” Sgt. Gillespie said.
“We feel we have a strong case.”
Queen Charlotte RCMP have been working overtime on the case ever since the house fire and explosion on Aug. 7. They spoke with a total of 51 witnesses.
“The fact that everyone came forward to give their side of the story was really great to see,” Gillespie said.
Off-island, forensics experts have also been doing lab work to support the case, following a site visit by the RCMP’s explosives disposal unit.
It was a hot, dry week in August when a roofer using a blowtorch accidentally lit a fire on the roof of Kendall’s house at 622 Seventh Street in Queen Charlotte.
The fire quickly spread and engulfed the entire home.
Volunteer firefighters, police and paramedics were called to the scene before the fire triggered explosives stored on the property. Police later found live explosives scattered around the blast site.
“The accused did not warn anyone, to our knowledge, that there were any explosives on the property,” Gillespie said.
Anyone licensed to work with explosives in B.C. is required to store them at a GPS-located site registered with province’s natural resources ministry.
In this case, the explosives should have been stored several kilometres away from the Village of Queen Charlotte, with the detonators and explosives placed in separate magazines.
When the explosives went off, about 15 minutes after first responders arrived, the blast knocked people off their feet and shot flaming debris into the air, starting several spot fires.
While no one suffered life-threatening injuries, some people were concussed and injured in other ways that may permanently affect their quality of life.
The shock wave also warped the walls of neighbouring buildings and cracked windows in buildings further away.
One business in the next-door office building, the Revive Therapeutic Centre, has for now been forced to close.
Another, Haida Gwaii Accounting & Income Tax, has temporarily relocated to Skidegate until the building can be fixed.
The fire also damaged a nearby family home badly enough that it has forced the residents to move.
It took volunteer firefighters from both Queen Charlotte and neighbouring Skidegate over 24 hours to finally douse the fire, largely because the area was so dangerous to work in.
Neighbours joined them in dousing spot fires with garden hoses, and several people came by throughout the day with water and food. In October, nearly 400 people from Queen Charlotte and Skidegate turned out to a community dinner honouring the firefighters, police, and paramedics who responded.
Gillespie said he has yet to find a similar case anywhere else in Canada.
“We were looking at case law for any other cases that had happened like this,” he said.
“I believe this is a fairly unique situation.”