Third paragraph reads: "Court of Queen's Bench Justice Marguerite Trussler noted Simons was on medication for depression at the time and felt overloaded by his work responsibilities."
Saturday, January 17, 2004
Man who caused gas station blaze avoids jail termBy TONY BLAIS, COURT BUREAU
A stressed-out city man who caused a Vegreville gas station to burn down - nearly causing the death of two volunteer firefighters - avoided a jail term yesterday.
Michael William Simons, 22, was given an 18-month conditional sentence to be served in the community after pleading guilty to arson.
Court of Queen's Bench Justice Marguerite Trussler noted Simons was on medication for depression at the time and felt overloaded by his work responsibilities.
"He was placed in a position way beyond his years," said Trussler, calling it an "unfortunate situation."
Crown prosecutor Leela Ramaswamy told court Simons was managing a Shell gas station in Vegreville and on Feb. 14, about 10:30 p.m., he filled two pails with gas and threw it around the station's bay.
"He didn't light the gas, but unfortunately due to the recklessness of his actions, it reached the hot-water heater and started a fire," said Ramaswamy.
As soon as he realized what he had done, Simons called the RCMP and confessed, she said, adding the station was completely engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived.
Two volunteer firefighters were pinned by red-hot debris and escaped the burning building seconds before it collapsed. Fellow firefighters watched in horror as part of the roof fell on top of Rose Lapointe and Capt. Ross Warren.
Firefighters quickly hosed the area where the pair were trapped and Capt. Dale Lefebvre, Capt. Jack Glaubitz and Chad Kratko braved the flames to pull them to safety.
Seconds after Warren was dragged out, the roof of the burning building collapsed. The pair escaped with minor injuries.
The fire caused $200,000 damage.
Defence lawyer Jan Terhart said Simons has taken counselling and is doing much better. He apologized in court.
"Because of other things in his mind the date this offence occurred, he thought maybe he would have less problems in his life if the gas station wasn't around to deal with, and unfortunately took the steps he did," said Terhart.
Simons was placed under house arrest, other than work, for six months and given a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.
He must also perform 150 hours of community wo