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Haskett says sorry
By Wes Brown
Some closure after four years of grief came Tuesday night as Mayor Dianne Haskett apologized on behalf of the City of London for the death of Tim Hickman.
Hickman, a former City employee, suffered fatal burns in an explosion at the Silverwood arena March 23, 1996. The blast occurred as a result of a faulty water-heater pilot flame igniting gas fumes in the room where he was working. The 20 year-old died in the hospital 10 days after the incident.
After the apology, Haskett said the City had looked into ensuring such a deadly blast never happened again. "The operations of all of our arenas have been changed and we will be looking into addressing all of our facilities around the city in the near future."
She said she felt badly since the tragedy and had expressed those feelings to the Hickman family on a number of occasions before Tuesday's announcement.
"The public apology on the part of the [City of London] corporation was something we felt was in order," she said.
The apology came on the heels of council's decision not to pursue an appeal in the legal case the City lost for a violation of the Health and Safety Act.
Jim Barber, lawyer for the City, said although the Hickman family had no involvement in the legal proceedings the case was brought forward by the Crown attorney they were present in court everyday of the trial. "This was pursued by the Crown and there has been no civil suit. This is a terrible tragedy for the family to go through," Barber said.
With the latest court decision, Barber said the City would have to examine their existing structures and make sure they met current safety standards outlined by the Health and Safety Act.
Haskett said she had a lengthy and intense personal conversation with Hickman's mother, Shirley, after making the apology. She added she would like to have Shirley involved in the City's efforts to make London safer.
However, Shirley said despite the apology for Tim's death, not one person had apologized for placing the water heater on the floor, rather than 45 inches off the ground, where it was supposed to be in the original design of Silverwood arena.
"They tried to say that somehow the heater did not fit, however it seemed to fit just fine after the accident," she said of the cause of the blast.
Shirley confirmed the mayor contacted her family after the announcement, which marked the first City apology since the tragedy. However, Shirley said she thought actions spoke louder than words.
"They have to show me that they are taking action on this safety problem," she said.