- Paperback: 301 pages
- Publisher: Harbour; 1 edition (September 1, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781550175301
- ISBN-13: 978-1550175301
- ASIN: 1550175300
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,246,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Tragedy at Second Narrows: The Story of the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge Paperback – September 1, 2010
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'An example of non-academic popular history at its best. It is deft, professional, and rigorous.' --Chr(45) BC Studies Winter 2009/2010
About the Author
For over thirty years Eric Jamieson made his living as a banker, working around the province in Victoria, Campbell River, Prince George, Fort St. John, Vancouver and North Vancouver. He has served a total of eighteen years on the boards of museums, most recently with the North Vancouver Museum and Archives. Tragedy at Second Narrows is his second book; he is also the author of South Pole--900 Miles on Foot. Jamieson lives in North Vancouver British Columbia with his wife Joan.
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Mr. Jamieson identifies and comments on numerous anomalies in the Lett Royal Commission. He also comments on the computational errors of Mr. McKibbin and the failure of Mr. McDonald (and the engineering firm Swan, Rhodes and Webster) to detect them, although the comments were somewhat vague on the extent to which the errors contributed to the failure. The anomalies and errors both individually and collectively raise many questions.
1. When asked to lead the Royal Commission Chief Justice Lett identified Dominion Bridge as a client of 25 years. Colonel Swan was also a lifelong friend. One must wonder how Attorney General Bonner and Premier W.A.C. Bennett could not perceive this to be a conflict of interest. Is it possible that the ability to distinguish between duty and personal loyalties varies according to social and professional status? I doubt it.
2. The Commission did not examine the top three Dominion Bridge executives directly responsible for the project (i.e. Mr. Gentiles, Vice President of the Pacific Division, Mr. McLachlan, Chief Engineer, and Mr. Paul, the Third Engineer). Was the Commission prohibited from examining these people (supposedly because ordering them to appear was outside the scope of the Commission's mandate) or did the Commission decide not to examine them. If the former, one must ask why the Commission was so inhibited. If the latter one must wonder why Chief Justice Lett decided not to compel them to testify. The reason given for excusing Mr. McLachlan was that he was still in shock over the loss of so many lives, particularly that of his colleague, Mr. McDonald. I am sure that his shock and grief was no greater than that of the friends and relatives of the 23 people who lost their lives. Would the need to precisely identify the cause or causes of the failure (if for no other reason than to prevent a recurrence) not outweigh the concern for Mr. McLachlan's shock? I think so. According to Mr. McLachlan's son, Mr. McLachlan would have "told all" if required to testify. Was this why he was prevented from testifying, and if so, who prevented the testimony and why?
3. Someone identified one of the errors of Mr. McKibbin and it was apparent from the testimony that Dominion Bridge knew more than they were revealing. However this was not pursued. Why did the Commission not pursue this issue?
4. While there is no question that Mr. McKibbin's calculations did not conform to the relevant standards, (and there is also no question that Mr. McDonald missed the errors and that Swan, Rhodes and Webster failed to inspect the calculations), the extent to which the errors by themselves contributed to the failure is less clear from the book. My recollection from the analysis in university is that the errors by themselves would not have caused the failure (but admittedly my memory may be unreliable after close to 50 years). Is it possible that the dimensional flaws in the structural members, the substandard material properties of one member and the use of plywood softeners contributed more to the failure? In fact, considering the quality of material and the use of softeners, is it possible that the structure would have collapsed even if Mr. McKibbin's calculations had been correct?
I am not a conspiracy theorist by nature but considering the above facts collectively is it possible that the findings of the Commission were intended to mask more serious transgressions by Dominion Bridge? It is true that the Commission found Dominion Bridge negligent but could it have done otherwise? I suspect that to exonerate Dominion Bridge would have offended any reasonable observer and would probably have caused public outrage. Chief Justice Lett therefore probably had little choice but to find his client of 25 years guilty of negligence (and also to find his lifelong friend's engineering firm guilty of "lack of care"). In so doing the Commission obviously satisfied the public. However, by avoiding evidence that might be more incriminating, did it also protect Dominion Bridge from a more serious indictment?
We will probably never know the answers to these questions but it is clear from Mr. Jamieson's account that there were many more contributing factors to the bridge failure than the computational errors of a junior engineer and the failure of senior engineers to correct the errors. Is it possible that the computational errors were not even the major cause of the failure?