Langley mushroom farm owner claims ignorance

Ha Quan Truong took the stand on Wednesday at the Coroner's Inquest into the 2008 deaths of three employees who died inhaling toxic gas

Langley mushroom farm owners L to R: Van Thi Troung

Langley mushroom farm owners L to R: Van Thi Troung

The owner of A-1 Mushroom Substratum claimed to have no knowledge of safety measures, dangerous off-gassing from composting or any other functions of his mushroom farm in Langley, where three of his employees died and two others were permanently injured in a 2008 workplace accident.

At a Coroner’s Inquest in Burnaby on Wednesday, Ha Quan Truong testified that he hired a supervisor and manager to handle everything on the farm.

He said he has no understanding of WorkSafe regulations, nor did he know that the smelly gases could be deadly.

The owner considers himself a victim in all of this, he said in his testimony. He said he had lost all his money in legal fees.

This farm had been on the Township’s radar screen for several years before the accident. The Township made several orders to the farm to stop producing compost. The Township also obtained a court order stating that compositing must cease in June, 2007.

Truong ignored those orders. He said at the inquest that he had considered suing the Township because it did not help him solve the problem.

Aldergrove-Fort Langley MLA Rich Coleman paid a visit to the farm, because he had received so many complaints about the smell, prior to the farm workers’ death.

On Tuesday, the lead investigator for WorkSafe BC testified that A-1 Mushroom was a dangerous place to work. The pump house the men died in was destined to be dangerous, given its poor design and confined space. Most of it was built without engineering consultation.

Ut Tran, 35, Han Pham, 47, and Chi Wai (Jimmy) Chan died on Sept. 5, 2008 while working at A-1 Mushroom Substratum Ltd. on 16 Avenue. Two other employees have been left with permanent brain damage.

One survivor, Tchen Phan, is in a wheelchair and cannot hear, talk or walk . The other, Michael Phan, a Langley father of two, has been in a coma since the 2008 incident.

Leibel and a jury will hear evidence from subpoenaed witnesses for several more days, to determine the facts surrounding these deaths.