Arsonist targets house of former Syncrude COO

Jan. 13, 2009
Former president's Edmonton home was deliberately set alight, say police

Former Syncrude Canada president Jim Carter and his wife Dr. Lorraine Bray are still trying to come to grips with the loss of their home in a suspected weekend arson.

"My wife and I are deeply saddened by the loss of our home and our personal possessions. We are grateful to have been spared any injury," wrote Carter in a statement released to Today this morning.

The Edmonton Police Service arson unit will be investigating the blaze that destroyed their home at 1744 Bearspaw Dr. W. Damage is estimated to be roughly $850,000.

"At the moment, we have very little information about what may have transpired or why. We may be in a position to comment further when we know more," added Carter. He also thanked the Edmonton fire department and police service "for their prompt and compassionate response to this devastating situation."

Carter and his family were not home when the fired started. It is suspected Molotov cocktails ignited the blaze. The house was already fully ablaze when firefighters arrived at 8:16 p.m. Fire investigator John Muir described the house as a total loss.

"Our hearts and thoughts are with Jim and his family with the loss of their home," said Alain Moore, Syncrude spokesman, this morning.

Neighbour Sandy Bradec said she and her husband were watching a movie in their home across the street around 8 p.m. Saturday, when they noticed a bright glow.

"I looked up and saw our rafters were glowing. It was so bright," she said. She ran out and saw that the glow was coming from the house across the street.

"The whole house was engulfed. It was horrible,"said Bradec, describing Carter as a nice guy and a positive community member.

"He'd clear the whole cul-de-sac (of snow)," she said, adding he kept a small tractor in the garage. "He is such a nice guy."

Carter was appointed by the province last year to head up its carbon capture and storage (CCS) council. The council, announced when the province unveiled its latest climate change plan, is to create the blueprint for going forward with CCS. That plan calls for emissions to be cut in half --- by 200 megatonnes -- by 2050. Carter's selection to lead the council "was based on his experience with the oils ands, and in implementing large-scale projects. That's what his background is, and it's that expertise that makes him an ideal chair of this new council," said Jason Chance, Alberta Energy spokesman, at the time.

When Carter retired from Syncrude in April 2007, it was remembered that it wasn't unusual to find him operating one of the shovels at the mine on Saturdays.

Carter worked for Syncrude for 27 years and was the president and chief operating office since October 1997. The father of six began his career with Syncrude in 1979 as manager of overburden operations and was appointed assistant general manager of mining in 1981. He took on the job of general manager of maintenance and operations services in 1986. The following year he was promoted to vice-president of administration. Between 1989 and 1997, he served as vice-president of operations.

In his retirement announcement, Carter was described as a champion of oils ands development on many fronts, including promoting diversity in the workplace, aboriginal engagement, safety and education.

Marcel Coutu, president of Canadian Oil Sands Trust, the majority shareholder in the Syncrude consortium, lauded Carter at as a key individual who "helped the industry from pretty skinny profitability to what it is today."

"And he's just a very genuine guy. Jim is one of those chief operating officers who actually spends time on the ground with the workers on site," he said.

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