Four people who died by breathing contaminated air and falling into a British Columbia, Canada mine shaft would still be alive if mine safety regulations were up to date, a work safety expert says.

Occupational safety specialist Marshall Denhoff testified July 11 at an inquest into an accident at a mine in Kimberley, B.C., which killed consultant Douglas Erickson, Teck Cominco employee Bob Newcombe, and paramedics Kim Weitzel and Shawn Currier.

Between May 15-17, 2006, they each died in a water sampling shed at the decommissioned Sullivan mine, where oxygen-depleted air was seeping into a pipe, and filling the shaft. One by one, they walked in, took a breath, then collapsed into the shaft and died, according to a report in The Globe and Mail.

Denhoff told the five-person jury that safety regulations at mine sites, as prescribed by the mining legislation, are "from a different era" and are much more lax than those that apply to every other workplace in the province.

Under WorkSafeBC requirements, the water-sampling shed would have had signs warning it was a confined space and posed a hazard, there would have been a rescue plan, and people entering would have had a personal air-testing device, according to Denhoff.

The chief mine inspector at the time, Fred Hermann, concluded in his report after the tragedy that low oxygen was to blame for the deaths. He testified at the inquest that regulations in legislation with respect to confined spaces should be revisited.

The mother of Mr. Currier said she was dismayed to hear that recommendations Hermann made after the accident, including a check-in, check-out process for anyone entering mine shafts, have not been enforced.