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Special victims' fund to be set up after Quebec plant blast

By The Canadian Press
| www.cos-mag.com

VALCOURT, Que. — A special fund will be created to help the families of victims in a plant explosion last week that killed three people, sent 19 to hospital and flattened an industrial facility.

The company that owns the plant, Neptune Technologies and Bioressources, announced its plan to set up the fund Monday. It said the fund would pay for psychological help and offer financial assistance to families of workers who were killed or remained in hospital. It did not disclose financial amounts during the announcement but said more details would be released soon.

"There are few, or no, words to convey the pain, sadness and anger in each of us," said Henri Harland, the company founder and CEO. "Of course, none of these measures can make up for the loss of three (members) of our family. But I hope these measures at least help reduce some of the unfair pressure created by this incident."

An explosion and subsequent fire destroyed the company's production plant in Quebec's Eastern Townships. The explosion could be heard for kilometres, and the subsequent fire reduced the plant to heaps of charred rubble.

The cause of the blast has not yet been determined. Harland said he is hoping to reopen the plant, "in the very short term," in Sherbrooke.

The provincial workplace-safety board is investigating and the company said it is co-operating with the investigation. It has also asked its insurance company to create a dedicated unit to help Neptune employees process their claims quickly.

It was one of two similar incidents in Quebec within a 24-hour period.

Several hours later, an explosion rocked a plant in the same region belonging to Bombardier Recreational Products.

Bombardier announced on Nov. 12 that one of its employees, who was in hospital, had died from his injuries.

The company said Sebastien Tardif, a 38-year-old father of two, died from injuries sustained in the explosion at the Valcourt, Que., research facility. A second person who was injured in the blast, a security guard, remained in intensive care in the burn unit of Quebec City's Enfant-Jesus hospital.

Tardif was a dynamometer operator, an instrument that is used to measure torque, power or force.

The company said an investigation is ongoing to determine what caused the blast during the night shift at the facility.

The research centre is closed but the company said manufacturing operations have not been affected.

The company said in a statement that its thoughts were with Tardif's family and friends and it offered support to the family and Tardif's fellow employees.

BRP was spun off by Bombardier Inc. in 2003. It is half-owned by Bain Capital, with the founding Beaudoin family holding a 35 per cent stake and the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec owning the rest.

The Valcourt plant produces Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Sea-Doo jet skis and Can-Am all-terrain vehicles and is located about 130 kilometres east of Montreal.

Quebec's workplace health and safety commission is investigating both explosions to try to determine the cause.

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