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Alberta Company formerly known as Nexen Energy fined $450,000 for 2016 blast that killed two oil sands workers

A sign at Nexen Energy's Long Lake facility near Fort McMurray, Alta., Wednesday, July 22, 2015. Nexen Energy has announced an investment decision on a Long Lake Southwest expansion project in northern Alberta. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

The company formerly known as Nexen Energy has been fined $450,000 after pleading guilty to charges in the deaths of two oil sands workers in northern Alberta.

The two men died from an explosion at the Long Lake facility near Anzac on Jan. 15, 2016.

Drew Foster, 52, of Niagara Falls, Ont., was pronounced dead at the scene and David Williams, 30, of Scotchtown, N.S., later died in hospital.

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Nexen Energy was charged in 2017 with workplace offences under Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Some of the charges related to ensuring a compressor was properly serviced and that staff in charge of the machine had read its operating manual and safety rules.

The company, which is now called CNOOC Petroleum North America, pleaded guilty in Fort McMurray provincial court to failing to ensure the health and safety of the men.

Quinn Wilson, CEO of the company, said it has been working on its safety practices to make sure that something similar never happens again.

“Drew Foster, David Williams were strong contributors to our company. They were valued and they were working overtime to help us,” he said Thursday outside court.

“As an operator we take full responsibility for what happened to those two men that day.”

Court heard 16 victim-impact statements from family members and a friend of the men.

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Tracy Foster, Drew’s widow, told the court about the events that led up to the explosion, including her husband’s decision to become a millwright and move across the country.

“Drew was the rock of our family. No amount of time will heal what we’ve lost,” she said.

Crown prosecutor Alana Elliot read a statement from Mr. Williams’s mother, who wrote that her living room has become a shrine to her late son.

Mr. Williams’s father, Michael, wrote that he sometimes visits the cemetery several times a day.

“Day after day. Surgery after surgery for 10 days we hoped and prayed David would be able to fight this, but the condition worsened.”

Other charges related to their deaths were withdrawn.

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