A former construction supervisor has been sentenced to three years in prison for negligence resulting in an employee's death at a Fredericton job site.
New Brunswick Court of King's Bench Justice Thomas Christie said the principles of denunciation and deterrence were key in the sentence he imposed Tuesday on Jason King, 46.
"Deterrence is necessary to convey to the public that criminal acts will not go unpunished and to deter others from committing similar acts," Christie said before pronouncing sentence.
"In this case I am mindful of the role of deterrence, that it can hopefully play in the sentence I am about to pass."
Christie asked King to stand as he sentenced him to three years in prison for criminal negligence causing the death of Michael Henderson, an 18-year-old employee who died on the job Aug. 16, 2018.
Christie said mitigating factors guiding his sentence included positive comments in King's pre-sentence report about his community involvement, as well as his expressions of remorse.
At the same time, King's conviction in 2006 of manslaughter was an aggravating factor in the sentence handed down, Christie said.
King, who hadn't been in custody, was led out of the courtroom by provincial sheriffs and later driven away in a sheriff's van.
Some members of the gallery who'd earlier walked into the courthouse with King could be seen crying moments after the sentence was announced.
On the other side of the gallery, family of Henderson remained quiet as everyone stood up and left the room.
Henderson died during work at the City of Fredericton's sewage plant on Aug. 16, 2018. (McAdam's Funeral Home)
"I thought he should have had more [time]," Dennis Henderson, Michael's grandfather, said moments later.
"I feel what he did to the family and the friends, he should have had more [time]."
King's sentence was the conclusion of a case that involved a three-week trial by a judge alone for the former Springhill Construction supervisor.
Christie, in giving his guilty verdict in June, said he found King "did nothing he was required to do" when it came to ensuring Henderson's safety on the site.
The Crown had argued Monday that King deserved 3½ years in prison, while the defence argued he deserved a sentence of 12 to 18 months, but served in the community under conditions.
Testimony at trial revealed Henderson had recently graduated from high school when he went to work for Springhill Construction on a project at the City of Fredericton's sewage plant on Barker Street.
An aerial photo shows the clarifier, which had a hole in the centre of it where Michael Henderson was working the day he died. (New Brunswick Court of King's Bench)
The project involved constructing a large concrete, pool-like structure known as a clarifier. The clarifier had a hole in the middle, and at the bottom of that hole was a horizontal pipe running several metres to the bottom of a nearby manhole.
In the weeks leading up to Henderson's death, King discussed plans to use a large inflatable plug to seal the horizontal pipe and then fill the manhole with water to test whether the pipe was watertight.
On the morning of Aug. 16, Henderson was cleaning out the bottom of the hole at the centre of the clarifier.
King started filling the manhole with water shortly before noon that day and kept it running as Henderson and other workers went for lunch.
Henderson was inside the hole in the middle of the clarifier when a plug pinned him underwater. (New Brunswick Court of King's Bench)
Henderson resumed work around 12:30 p.m, and shortly before 1 p.m. the plug slid out of the pipe while he was in the hole, pinning him to the wall as water rose above his head. He remained under water for several minutes before first responders were able to free him.
Union leader pleased with outcome
Monday's proceedings saw a packed courtroom as family members gave victim impact statements detailing the extreme grief they've felt since Henderson's death.
It also saw several members of labour unions in attendance to show their support for the family.
New Brunswick Federation of Labour president Daniel Legere says he thinks the outcome of Jason King's case will push companies to uphold workplace safety standards. (Ed Hunter/CBC)
Daniel Legere, president of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour attended both Monday, and Tuesday, and said he was pleased with the outcome.
"When an employer or supervisor is held accountable to the degree they were held today, they're going to make sure that they're aware of the implications of not following health and safety rules and regulations," he said.
At the time charges were laid in 2020, WorkSafeNB said it was the first time a case of criminal negligence causing death had been pursued in relation to a workplace incident.
Springhill Construction Ltd. was charged alongside King, and the company's trial is scheduled to start on Jan. 8, Clarence Bennett, their lawyer, said in an email.