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Owner of nightclub damaged in downtown explosion files lawsuit against City of Prince George

Claim contends city parks worker left seriously injured in Aug. 22 blast reported strong smell of gas the day before the blast that leveled former Achillion restaurant

The owner of a downtown Prince George nightclub has filed a court action against the City of Prince George, claiming lost revenue when his business was forced to close as a result of a natural gas explosion last summer that levelled a nearby building.

Trevor Sakamoto, whose company Encore Promotions Inc., owns Heartbreakers nightclub adjacent to the site of the explosion, is claiming the negligence of a city employee led to the blast at about 7 a.m. on Aug. 22 at 422 Dominion St.

The court action, filed on Wednesday, claims the defendant, a city bylaw officer, failed to take action when that person was informed by a female city parks worker in the morning the day before the explosion that there was a strong smell of gas coming from that building and she was told it would be dealt with. The parks employee had reported the gas smell using the city's 311 phone number but did not speak directly to a bylaw officer.

The following morning the same parks worker, identified as 34-year-old Victoria Mcgivern, was working next to the building and again noticed a strong odour of gas coming from the building, so she used her cell phone to report it to Fortis BC.

As she was walking away from the entrance to the building it blew up in a fiery explosion. Mcgivern was blown off her feet and buried in debris, suffering a serious head injury, extensive burns and torn tendons in her hands, which required surgery. Three other people also suffered injuries in the blast.

Prince George RCMP later determined the explosion was caused by people who unlawfully entered the building to steal copper, which damaged a natural gas pipe.

“It was reasonable and foreseeable to the bylaw enforcement officers… that an extremely dangerous situation had arisen since it was reported to the City of Prince George that natural gas was being vented in the building and was readily detectable in the area,” according to the court file submitted by lawyer Roy Stewart.

It claims the bylaw officer was bound by duty to report the gas leak to Fortis and firefighters with Prince George Fire Rescue.

The plaintiff claims the explosion forced closure of the business pending repairs and rehabilitation of the surrounding area. It damaged the exterior cladding of the nightclub, the HVAC system and external machinery, broke windows and left toxic material inside the building. Several buildings in the area had broken windows and the UNBC Wood Innovation Centre suffered extensive fire damage on the side facing the explosion.

The nightclub was insured for some but not all of the damage. The policy considers the age and condition of the building at the time of the explosion and will not cover the full cost of repairs. Encore says the building cannot reopen until the repairs are completed and it is safe for invitees.

The nightclub owner is seeking damages caused by what is claimed as negligence demonstrated by the bylaw officer.