Mother ‘incensed’ with judicial system after Nexen sentencing in son’s death

When Claire Poulton learned Nexen Energy had been fined $450,000 in the death of two employees — including her son — in a 2016 explosion, she was “incensed.”

The fine is “peanuts” for the Calgary-based company, now called CNOOC Petroleum North America, Poulton said. 

“That’s not a deterrent for a multi-million dollar company,” she said.

“Was my son’s life really only worth $225,000?

“I would have liked to see them pay through the nose.”

Poulton wears a locket with the ashes of her son Drew Foster around her neck. She also has a small memorial for her son in her home. 

“I just miss him so much.”

Last week, CNOOC pleaded guilty in Fort McMurray provincial court to failing to ensure the health and safety of Foster, 52, and Dave Williams, 30. 

The two were refitting valves on a hydrocracker unit at the company’s Long Lake facility on Jan. 15, 2016, when it exploded.

CNOOC was fined $450,000 in the deaths, shy of the maximum fine of $500,000.

Crown prosecutor Alana Elliot said in an email that $450,000 was a “just and appropriate” sentence.

“The Crown did not seek the maximum fine in this case because there were a number of mitigating factors, including the guilty plea, expression of remorse and an assessment of the level of negligence.”

Claire Poulton wears a locket that holds some of her son’s ashes. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

The fine is in the $350,000 to $450,000 range, typical in a case involving a double fatality, Elliott said.

CNOOC was originally charged with eight counts under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, but that was reduced to one count.

While each conviction could lead to a fine of $500,000, imposing the maximum fine for each offence isn’t within the normal sentencing range, Elliott said.

The Crown often accepts a plea to a single count when a company pleads guilty, she said.

Claire Poulton says Nexen should have “paid through the nose” after pleading guilty to one count under the Occupational Health and Safety Act Thursday. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

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