CTV News: ‘It’s been covered up’: Explosive allegations in electrocution of B.C. woman

As seen on CTV News by Michele Brunoro on October 18, 2015.

Troubling allegations of lies and a cover-up are emerging in the electrocution of a B.C. woman and her two dogs six years ago.

A CTV News investigation reveals a power line may have come down near a popular walking area days before the accident with no action taken, even though the line had allegedly been reported to the District of Kent days earlier.”It’s been covered up. It’s been covered up,” said Dave Morris who worked in the District of Kent’s public works department at the time.

On Oct. 18, 2015, Shirley Nate was walking near her home in Harrison Mills near Kilby Park when she was electrocuted.

“People heard screams at the campground and she was on fire apparently,” said an emotional Laura Nichols, Shirley Nate’s sister.

“You’re not thinking (when) you’re taking your dogs for a walk that this is going to happen to someone,” said Nichols.

“I thought, how could that have happened? Was there no signs up?”

Nate’s family says that as witnesses rushed to help, Nate warned them to stay back.

“She saved a lot of people that day. She’s my hero. She’s always been my hero,” said her brother, William Nate, as he choked back tears.

Her family says she was rushed to Vancouver General Hospital, where she battled critical injuries from being badly burned. She had both arms amputated.

“She tried to talk but she couldn’t because of all the big tubes in her mouth,” remembers her mom, Mary Nate.

She says her daughter fought hard, but died five weeks later. She was 60.

“She didn’t have to die. There’s no reason for it,” Morris said.

Morris alleges the district knew about the downed power line and the matter was raised in a staff meeting two days before the accident.

“The power line discussion was that there was no power to the pump house and the power line was down and apparently we heard someone had phoned in there was a line down,” he said in an interview with CTV News.

A second man, who CTV agreed not to identify, said he was in the same meeting and also said a discussion about the downed power line took place.

“… he said that he had received a call from someone in Kilby who had notified him that there was a tree that had come down in the windstorm and had taken out a power line,” the man said.

Morris says he left the Friday meeting under the assumption that BC Hydro was going to be called. Two days later, on Sunday, Nate was electrocuted.

Morris and the other man who was in the meeting claim that after the electrocution, the district tried to cover up what it knew, holding meetings with public works staff.

“Instead of accepting responsibility for it… instead they (the district) put us all in a position where we were told to lie about it,” said the worker, who didn’t want to be identified.

A source provided an audio recording of what they say occurred in one of those meetings.

In it, a man can be heard saying, “The information we had was that a tree was down on the dike. We did not have any information that hydro lines were down. If we had, we would have responded with urgency.”

Later on, a man says, “So I just wanted to be clear because… I’m hearing stuff through other sources about people talking about what we had said at this meeting…. There has to be an investigation and we just need to be understanding that during that investigation we have to be careful what we say. Or we shouldn’t be really saying anything else or adding our opinions to this.”

Both men who spoke to CTV say they told RCMP about what happened in the meetings.

The B.C. Prosecution Service confirms police investigating Nate’s death forwarded a report.

“Charges were not approved as the assessing Crown Counsel could not conclude that the charge assessment standard had been met,” said Dan McLaughlin of the B.C. Prosecution Service in an email to CTV News.

The Crown would not say what charges were recommended or whether they involved the district.

CTV News contacted the District of Kent but was sent a statement saying the district had no comment due to ongoing civil litigation.

That litigation involves a lawsuit from Nate’s parents against the district and BC Hydro, alleging Kent “…became aware of the downed powerline before the Plaintiff was injured and failed to take adequate action to have the line repaired…”

In court documents, Kent has denied all allegations and claims BC Hydro is responsible.

In a statement, BC Hydro says it “…actively participated in the RCMP’s investigation and was found not responsible for the incident.”

“According to interviews conducted by the investigation team, the downed line was spotted by a member of the public sometime around Oct. 15, 2015,” says the statement from BC Hydro.

That would be two days before the electrocution.

“The downed line may have been reported by area residents to the operators of the Kilby Historic Site who then reported it to the District of Kent instead of BC Hydro,” the statement reads.

“Because there was no power outage and the damaged line was not reported to BC Hydro, BC Hydro was unaware of the hazard posed by the energized line, and so did not take steps to fix the line until after the tragic accident.”

“This should have never happened. To anybody,” said Nate’s brother who is calling for police to re-open their investigation.

He says six years later, they are still searching for the truth and grieving the family member they lost.

Nate’s mom keeps some of her daughter’s ashes in a heart-shaped pendant she often wears.

“Sometimes I feel she’s looking after me. I just feel it,” she said.


About the BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society

‘In Their Name’ is the campaign of ‘The BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society’ – a BC registered non-profit organization comprised of volunteer families who have lost a loved one to wrongful death in BC and were denied access to justice. In response to the biggest human rights issue facing the province today, our goal is to modernize British Columbia’s antiquated wrongful death legislation, which predates confederation (1846). Under current legislation, the value of a human life is measured only by the deceased’s future lost income, so long as they had dependents.

As a result of the province’s antiquated law, access to justice has been denied to the families of the wrongfully killed who do not meet this discriminatory criteria. This has affected especially vulnerable groups, namely children, seniors, the disabled, and anyone without dependents when they are killed by the negligent or intentional acts of another.

BC is presently the last of all the provinces, yet to have undertaken this critical legislative modernization to allow for dignity, value, and protections for all its citizens under the law.

When it’s ‘free’ to kill in BC, wrongdoers are not held accountable. This lack of general deterrence holds the province back in terms of incentivizing innovation of safety measures and protocols to prevent wrongful deaths in the first place.

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The Premier of British Columbia, David Eby, is responsible for the modernization of BC’s wrongful death laws. Our Society provided David Eby with the drafted ‘Wrongful Death Accountability Act’ when he was acting as the Attorney General for British Columbia for 6 years between 2017-2022. The new Attorney General, Niki Sharma, also shares responsibility as she is the Minister responsible for the ‘Family Compensation Act’ – the current guiding piece of legislation that the civil courts must follow in cases of wrongful death. Minister Sharma receives feedback from the regional ‘Members of the Legislative Assembly’ (MLAs) and follows orders from the Premier, David Eby, who is ultimately responsible for modernization.

Reform is presently at a standstill, as the BC NDP government does not presently view access to justice for the surviving family members of the wrongfully killed as a priority in this province. This is despite the fact that the families behind our Society have been fighting for modernization for over two decades. And despite the fact that all other provinces, including the Yukon, have already modernized in most cases long ago.

The only way to move this forward is by creating massive public awareness and outcry for legislative modernization. Only under the scrutiny of the public and the media will our politicians be forced to take this necessary, and long overdue action.

How many more people will need to die from the same preventable wrongful actions before our politicians will do their job?

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