Ottawa

Future of Eastway Tank unclear 1 year after deadly explosion

Transport Canada says Eastway Tank has not applied to operate at a different location since an explosion last year at the company's Merivale Road site left six employees dead.

Company has not applied to operate at different location: Transport Canada

Flowers and a ball cap with writing on it hang as a memorial on a company sign.
A cap is among the items left by families and friends that remain at the Eastway Tank site. Six people were killed in an explosion there nearly one year ago. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Nearly a year after an explosion left six of its workers dead and triggered several provincial workplace safety charges for the decades-old company, Eastway Tank, Pump and Meter's future is unclear.

On Jan. 13, 2022, Kayla Ferguson, Rick Bastien, Etienne Mabiala, Danny Beale, and Russell McLellan died at the Ottawa tanker manufacturer's site on Merivale Road after a blast and fire. A sixth employee, Matt Kearney, died in hospital the next day in what became the city's deadliest workplace incident in many years. 

Last Friday, Ontario's Ministry of Labour charged the company and its owner, Neil Greene, with three offences each under the province's Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The company was accused, among other things, of not taking reasonable precautions to protect employees around the day of the blast. The allegations have not been proven in court.

Also on Friday, Transport Canada confirmed it has not received an application from Eastway to operate at a different location.

The agency also confirmed in an emailed statement to CBC that Eastway has not conducted regular operations as part of its registration with Transport Canada since the explosion, which left a building at the site badly damaged. 

The company's owner, Neil Greene, has not responded to multiple requests for comment about the provincial charges or Eastway's current status. 

Faded mementos still at site nearly 1 year later

In the immediate months after the explosion, a security vehicle could be seen during the daytime guarding the Eastway gate, up a short drive from the road. 

Early Monday afternoon, however, there was no security at the closed gate and there appeared to be no activity at the site, where vehicles of all kinds remained parked. 

Eastway Tank entrance gate January 9, 2023
The closed gate leading to the Eastway yard. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Weathered, faded photos and other mementos paying tribute to the explosion's victims still surrounded the Eastway sign facing Merivale drivers and passersby.

They had been left there by family and friends in the days following the blaze. 

Eastway Tank victim mementos at site January 9, 2023
Faded, weathered photos lie below the Eastway sign greeting Merivale Road drivers. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Website devoted to listing inventory

Among the pieces of equipment parked on the other side of the Eastway gate Monday was a 1999 Freightliner Chassis.

eastway chassis
This piece of equipment was photographed at the Eastway site on Monday. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

That same item, plus several trucks, tanks and refuelers, are listed on a website called usedoilandfiretrucks.com.

Visitors to Eastway's website, eastwaytank.com, were being redirected to the inventory site last week. Though that's no longer the case, the inventory site could still be reached directly on Monday. 

website listing
The equipment featured in the previous photo is listed on a website exclusively devoted showing inventory. (usedoilandfiretrucks.com)

Some photos on the inventory site feature either Eastway signage or signifiers of the Merivale site, including the red siding of the next-door car wash.

One of the items on the inventory is listed with the same 888 phone number featured in past Eastway advertisements which, when dialed, was out of service on Monday.  

Listing inventory is nothing new for the company; its main website did so before the explosion. But unlike the inventory site, which only focuses on inventory listings, the main website also advertised other Eastway services. 

2007 Kenworth T300
A propane truck bearing Eastway Tank markers, pictured near the car wash next door to the company, is among the items listed on the inventory website. (usedoilandfiretrucks.com)

Digital memorial plaque

As of last Thursday, Eastway was not listed in the registry of the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy in Ottawa.

According to the province's public records, Lewis Motor Sales in Barrie, Ont., has placed a lien on Eastway for purchased vehicles "as well as all accessories, spare parts, replacements, attachments and trade-ins."

A website called eastwaytank.ca rather than .com — which featured the company's logo last summer — currently consists of an image of a memorial that looks similar to the one the City of Ottawa unveiled in honour of the explosion's six victims last October.

Last week, the website plaque said the six employees "lost their lives in the tragic events at Eastway Tank on January 13, 2022."

plaque
This digital plaque was featured on a website called eastwaytank.ca last week. (eastwaytank.ca)

It was nearly identical to the city plaque's wording, except the city's plaque used the words "the Eastway explosion."

The wording of the website plaque was then changed. It no longer mentions the event; it just lists the names of the six employees and says "in our thoughts and prayers forever" and "never forgotten."

digital plaque
The wording on the digital plaque has since changed. (eastwaytank.ca)

In its outreach, CBC has asked Greene both about the inventory website and if eastwaytank.ca belongs to Eastway.  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Ottawa

Guy Quenneville is a reporter at CBC Ottawa born and raised in Cornwall, Ont. He can be reached at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

With files from Falice Chin

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