Several military members and civilians sustained injuries in an explosion that occurred at 19 Wing Comox on the morning of Nov.18, 2021.
Sixteen military members and six civilians were treated for injuries just after the blast. Twenty-one have been treated and released, and one is still in the hospital receiving care.
As stated in a press release from National Defence that was received on Nov. 19, “The identity of those injured will not be released, and we are supporting them throughout their recovery. The building site remains an active emergency scene. Federal, Provincial and Military investigations begin today.”
Occurred at Barrack Building Under Renovation
The explosion occurred at a barrack building under renovation at the base located in Comox, BC. 19 Wing emergency services responded to the blast. They were supported by RCAF Search and Rescue Technicians and civilian Emergency Medical Services.
“Thank you to all agencies and individuals who offered support to the Wing,” Col. Bryn Elliott, Wing Commander, 19 Wing Comox, expressed. “To our 19 Wing team, I am extremely proud of you. You acted immediately, professionally and bravely to assist the injured and secure the scene. The initial explosion was significant, and the risk of further explosions was present for some time. Thank you for a job well done under incredibly challenging circumstances.”
Everyone known to have been on the Wing was accounted for. However, the damage to the building has made clearing it difficult. An Urban Search and Rescue team from Esquimalt is searching the site using acoustic and infrared sensors.
Operations Not Affected
No aircraft, airfield facilities, or air operations at 19 Wing are affected, and primary missions of Search and Rescue and protecting Canadian sovereignty continued.
According to the press release, early information shows that a contractor might have been working on a perimeter drain with a mini-excavator when a gas line was hit. The work was part of larger renovations to the building.
Worksite investigations in British Columbia have provincial oversight through WorkSafe BC and Technical Safety BC. WorkSafe BC knows about the incident and will be doing a full investigation.
The Canadian Forces Fire Marshall, Fortis BC, and Military Police will also conduct additional investigations.
Fortis BC has disconnected the gas line, and DND Real Property Operations has shut down power to the building.
The contractors involved were Luxton Construction Inc. and their sub-contractor, Saywell Contracting.
The project was set to be finished by January 2022, but that will need to be adjusted. The value of the contract currently is about $2.7M. Overall, the project cost was estimated at $3M to complete renovations on two accommodations buildings: B24 and B25.
Building 25 (B25) is an accommodations building with a bed capacity for 130 people.
The press release indicated that the building is likely damaged beyond economical repair. Therefore, additional assessments will be required of the building, as well as the adjacent accommodations building.