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Red Deer car wash owners fined $40,000 for 2017 explosion

Cleaning fluid accidentally ignited burning three people
A City of Red Deer fire investigator works at the site of an explosion at Laser Wash car wash on 67A Street in 2017. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

A family-run Red Deer car wash was fined $40,000 for a 2017 explosion that left three people in hospital for weeks.

Lazer Car Wash owners Heebo Jo and Myung Kun Song pleaded guilty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing to develop procedures for safely storing, using and handling a flammable cleaning fluid that ignited on Aug. 18, 2017.

Song, an employee and a job seeker were burned in the explosion at the car wash at 6104 67A St. Song and the employee were in hospital for three weeks and the other person for about 17 days being treated for burns, which included skin grafts.

Special Crown prosecutor Jasmine Grewal said the explosion happened during an attempt to siphon a naptha-based cleaning fluid out of a container. Part of that effort involved trying to join two hoses together.

Three men recovering from burns

Car Wash owners fined for explosion

The visitor to the car wash suggested heating one of the hoses so the other could be slid inside. He lit a lighter to do that and cleaning fluid vapours ignited.

Grewal recommended a fine in the $40,000 to $60,000 range and 18 month’s probation.

Defence lawyer Will Willms said Song and Jo had been employees at the car wash for several years before purchasing it about six weeks before the accident.

During their employment, they had not received proper training, so they had no formal direction or assistance to rely on when they ran the operation.

Following the incident, the owners fully co-operated with the City of Red Deer and Occupational Health and Safety. A Korean translator joined Jo and Song in court and interpreted all of the proceedings to them.

They pleaded guilty to three charges laid by the city under the Safety Codes Act and were fined $30,000 in May 2018.

Willms said the owners have taken full responsibility for what happened and implemented many changes to make the operation safer, including the switch to using non-flammable cleaning products.

Willms asked for a fine in the $30,000 to $40,000 range.

Red Deer provincial court Judge Jim Hunter recognized that the car wash owners were making improvements.

“It is obvious that they are taking this seriously and I accept their remorse as genuine,” he said, noting they had no prior record.

“It is evident they want to operate a safe company and not have this kind of thing happen again.”

In setting the fine, Hunter said he took into account that it was a small, family-operated business and any financial penalty would affect its ability to operate in the current economy.

He also imposed an 18-month probation during which the owners would continue to work with Operational Health and Safety on ensuring all safety protocols were met.

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