BURNABY (NEWS1130) – Tears and anger erupted in a coroner’s courtroom in Burnaby today after the co-owner of a Langley mushroom farm where three workers died and two were left crippled by poison gas almost four years ago apologized to the victims’ families.

“I would like to say I apologize to the victims’ families a hundred times, a  thousand times,” Thinh Doan said through a Vietnamese interpreter.  “Their loss is so big.”

But during his apology, Phuong Le, the wife of Michael Phan, who was left with severe brain damage in the September 2008 incident, cried “Liar!” and wept in her seat.

Earlier in the morning, Doan admitted workers did not get formal safety training at the composting operation.

Doan says he ran the composting farm for his boss, majority owner Ha Truong, but learned everything on the job from a consultant.

He claims he didn’t know about potentially-deadly gases produced from composting mushrooms, and therefore didn’t properly train workers he oversaw.

Doan says he designed the pump shed where the workers died and were left crippled, but didn’t know about the regulations around confined spaces or workplace health and safety rules.

On Wednesday, Truong also pleaded ignorance, saying he did not know composting mushrooms created potentially-deadly gas.

After he finished testifying, Doan was confronted by Le in the hallway before being escorted to the parking lot of the building by coroner Norm Leibel.

Former general manager of composting operation speaks

A man who helped run the composting business at a mushroom farm where three workers died and two were left crippled from poison gas says the owners were well aware of safety issues, even though they deny it.

D’Arcy Ashe was hired to help run the composting business on the farm, and says the former owners were “geniuses at short cuts.”
Ashe argued with the main owner about processes and how people should be treated, and he says there were all kinds of shortcuts made on the farm. The owners have said they looked to him for safety issues but Ashe says that’s not true, and doesn’t understand the claims, “I don’t know why they would say something like that.”
Ashe says he would never have allowed changes at the pump shed.

He left the business in late 2006.

Ashe also says both Thinh Doan and Ha Quan Truong used Vietnamese interpreters during their coroners testimony, but Ashe says they both speak very good English.