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Criminal negligence charges laid in Dunlop St. workplace fatality

Police allege the accused, who had been operating the crane at the time of the incident, was not licensed to do so

City police have laid criminal negligence charges in connection to a 2021 construction site fatality in Barrie.

Donald Paul Balkwell, 60, of Orillia, has been charged with criminal negligence causing death. He was arrested by Barrie police on Nov. 29 in relation to an incident at a work site on Dunlop Street West on June 24, 2021, resulting in the death of 52-year-old Orillia resident Corey Phillips.

On Dec. 1, city police also charged North Steel with criminal negligence causing death. Police say the company was responsible for the supply and installation of structural steel at the site.

None of the allegations have been tested in court. 

Police say the investigation determined that the crane that was in use at the site — an eight-storey, affordable housing project near Boys Street, east of Anne Street — had tipped over, causing Phillips to be knocked down and pinned under several steel beams. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

As a result of a joint investigation by Barrie police and the Ministry of Labour, police allege that Balkwell, who had been operating the crane at the time of the incident, was not licensed to operate the crane. Police also allege the crane being used had been mechanically altered to allow it to extend past its rated capacities.

“These investigations, due to complexities, do take a period of time,” Barrie police communications co-ordinator Peter Leon told BarrieToday. “There’s no set timeline when these types of occurrences occur and it will take as much time as it takes for a thorough investigation to be carried out and conducted.

"Obviously, in a case like this, there would have been a number of people that would have been required to be interviewed and based on those interviews, and follow-ups that were necessary, it led us to a point where criminal charges could be laid," he added. 

Leon noted the results of the investigation also show that the Barrie police and the Ministry of Labour work closely together whenever a death occurs at a workplace.

“The sad part is this is a tragedy that occurred and the death of the individual. … We can’t change what happened there, but we can certainly allow for a judicial process now to take place to determine the validity of the charges that have been laid," he said. 

Balkwell was released on an undertaking and is scheduled for a virtual appearance at the Ontario Court of Justice in Barrie on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

North Steel is also scheduled to appear in court via Zoom on Dec. 19.