A Toronto project manager found guilty in a deadly scaffolding collapse which saw members of his construction crew plummet to the ground told a court Friday that he was sorry for what had happened.
Vadim Kazenelson told his sentencing hearing he would never forget the day when four men died and another was seriously injured while repairing balconies at a Toronto highrise.
“I want to begin by apologizing for the accident on Dec. 24, 2009 and my role at the scene,” he said.
“I am going to live all my life with that pain…All the men on the job site, they are good workers and good men. I’m sorry for their families and all those who suffered.”
Kazenelson was found guilty in June on four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
The judge presiding over the case found Kazenelson was aware that fall protections were not in place, but still allowed his workers to board a swing stage which collapsed.
Justice Ian MacDonnell indicated Friday that he would be imposing a term of incarceration, but still had to decide how long it might be.
The Crown prosecutor in the case recommended between four to five years in prison, while Kazenelson’s lawyer argued for a sentence of one to two years.
Crown lawyer Rochelle Direnfeld said Kazenelson was in a position of trust and had a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent harm to those he was directing but failed to do so.
“The harm that resulted from Mr. Kazenelson’s conduct was very grave,” said Direnfeld.
On the day when the scaffolding collapse occurred, six workers had got onto a swing stage they had been using to go up and down the outside of a building, but the stage only had two safety lifelines, court heard.
At that point, Kazenelson was still on a 13th floor balcony, handing tools to the workers on the stage, court heard.
The trial heard Kazenelson asked the site foreman, who was present, about the lifelines at one point, but was told by him not to worry and no more was said.
“Not only did he fail to rectify this fundamental breach…he permitted those workers to board the stage with their tools with no information on the capacity of the stage. He then boarded the stage himself,” Direnfeld said.
The trial heard that Kazenelson managed to hold onto a balcony when the swing stage split in two, sending five workers hurtling to the ground.
Alesandrs Bondarevs, Aleksey Blumberg, Vladamir Korostin and foreman Fayzullo Fazilov fell to their deaths, while Dilshod Marupov survived the fall with fractures to his spine and ribs. The men ranged from 21 to 40 years old and were from Latvia, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.
Only one worker, who was the sole person properly secured to a lifeline, was left suspended in mid-air until Kazenelson hauled him up onto a balcony, court heard.
Kazenelson’s lawyer argued, however, that not including that day, Kazenelson was always a very safety-conscious worker.
“This is a horrible tragic case, no sentence imposed will bring back the lives lost. Mr. Kazenelson did not want this to occur,” said Lou Strezos.
“Mr. Kazenelson’s momentary lapse was completely contrary to his previous behaviour.”
In arguing for a sentence of one to two years, Strezos said Kazenelson did not need rehabilitation himself, had the support of his family and friends, and had been working safely in construction for the past five years.
“A crushing sentence of four years would overshoot the mark of what is required for the principle of restraint,” he said.
Kazenelson’s sentence is expected to be delivered on Jan. 11.