Ottawa Police say they have completed their investigation into an accident three weeks ago in which a 39-year-old man plunged to his death after climbing an unattended hydraulic lift which had been left in an unsafe position for at least a week at the corner of Bank and Sparks streets.
The mishap occurred around 2 a.m. when Dale Clinton was out with friends while visiting Ottawa. The Saint John, N.B., firefighter suffered severe head injuries when he fell five metres and died shortly after arriving at the Ottawa Hospital.
Public Works Canada had rented the lift for window repair work at the Brouse-Slater Building on Sparks Street.
After completing the work the lift was parked with its boom and bucket about five metres up in the air.
However, the manufacturer of the lift, Genie Industries, says the boom should have been lowered to the ground when unattended.
“The manual does require that the boom be stowed when it’s not in use,” says Rick Curtin, director of product safety at Genie Industries, adding that stowed means “fully retracted, fully lowered.”
“However, regardless of its position, the person should not have been climbing the boom,” he says.
By not complying with the operator’s manual, the federal public works department may have been negligent, says Ottawa labour lawyer Paul Champ.
“Leaving the lift in an upright position is almost certainly negligence if the operational manual advises the owner and operator to keep it in a down position when it is not attended. I think that would be very strong evidence that the operator was negligent,” Champ says.
“This man’s family probably has a strong action for negligence in this tragedy.”
Contacted in Saint John, the family declined to comment.
Ottawa police wouldn’t say what exactly they investigated, including whether safety regulations had been ignored.
“We look at everything, but we wouldn’t disclose that,” says police spokesman Const. Marc Soucy. Police wouldn't comment further.
Cy Winter, a pro-life protester who holds a vigil on Bank Street near an abortion clinic five days a week just metres from the site of the accident, says he saw the parked lift unused in an upright position for at least a week before Clinton fell from it.
“It was always up 15 to 20 feet,” he said in an interview. “I heard it was kept up so people couldn’t climb into the bucket and use the controls. But look what happened. Someone was tempted to try to get to the bucket because it was up.”
According to Simplex Equipment Rental, the company from whom Public Works had rented the lift, it is common to leave unattended lifts up in the air to prevent people from stealing them by accessing the controls in the bucket. But the Ottawa branch manager, Yves Labbé, emphasizes that it was Public Works’ decision to leave the bucket up.
“We don’t tell people what to do with the machines. Those guys, when they rent, already have their certification to operate the machine,” he says.
Public Works refused comment on why the boom was left up in the air, But in a written statement spokesperson Sebastien Bois wrote: “We are saddened by this unfortunate incident and our thoughts go to the family and friends of the deceased. (Public Works) is co-operating with the Ottawa Police . . . It would be inappropriate to comment further.”