Industrial deaths: Testimony painful at Chenier, Fram inquest – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – April 28, 2015)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

Day 6 of the inquest into the June 8, 2011 deaths of Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram at Vale’s Stobie Mine moved into painful and sensitive territory Monday.

After a morning and an hour in the afternoon of technical testimony by Ministry of Labour inspectors, assistant crown attorney Rebecca Bald told the inquest jury the causes of death for the two men.

Thirty-five-year-old Chenier died of smothering, compressional asphyxia and blunt-force injuries, according to forensic pathologist Dr. Martin Queen, said Bald. The cause of death for Fram, 26, was smothering and compressional axphixia, said the lawyer, one of two assistant crown attorneys acting as counsel to presiding coroner Dr. David Eden.

Members of the Fram and Chenier families have attended every day of the inquest, sitting in the front rows of courtroom A at the Sudbury courthouse.

The inquest has heard the men were overcome by an explosive and violent run of hundreds of ton of muck – broken ore, sand, slimes and water – that was hung up in No. 7 ore pass, then burst through a control gate where they were working.

Chenier and Fram were buried on the 3,000-foot level of the century-old mine, near the No. 7 ore pass, the inquest has heard.

For the first week, the jury was comprised of two men and three women. By Monday, a male juror had been excused for medical reasons after several recesses were called last week for that reason.

Bald told the inquest she had asked for a supplementary letter from Queen about the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Chenier and Fram.

Upon considering the circumstantial evidence and reviewing post-mortem results, Queen gave an opinion “on the balance of probabilities.”

He said the men were trapped in mud; that death wasn’t instantaneous but likely occurred within four to five minutes; and that they were likely unconscious within a minute.

“Prolonged suffering and survival was highly unlikely,” Queen said in the letter read to the inquest by Bald.

Labour ministry lead inspector Shaun Carter said he reached the incident scene June 9 about 3 p.m. and after surveying it for 30 minutes was unclear about what had happened and where the excess water had originated.

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