A Canadian judge has ordered Priestly Demolition Inc, a major demolition, abatement and remediation firm based in Aurora, Ontario, to pay a fine of $200,000 (C) related to a December 2003 project in Toronto in which one person died and 17 others were injured. The hefty fine was levied Oct. 23 by the province's Ministry of Labour under its Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The accident occurred when the roof of a movie theater that was being demolished collapsed, spraying masonry walls and debris onto nearby buildings and through the roof of an adjacent private school, trapping students and staff. One student died.

Just prior to the collapse, a worker using high-reach mechanical shears cut the top structural member of the main western truss of the roof, says the Ministry, which conducted an investigation. The investigators allege that Priestly failed to follow several safeguards, including not having an inspector check the internal roof structure prior to removing the truss and not have a structural engineer on site either before or after the demolition started.

Priestly pleaded guilty to "failing to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring a competent person inspected the theatre's internal roof structure prior to removing the main western roof truss," a violation of the safety act, according to the Ministry. The fine also includes a 25% "victim surcharge," which goes into a special government fund. Priestly officials did not comment.