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The coroner’s inquest is the first legal procedure undertaken following a suspicious death. The coroner, who is often a doctor by training, undertakes this inquest if he or she suspects that the death was due to a criminal cause. The coroner later draws up a report that specifies the causes of death. Since the report may point to an individual believed to be implicated in or responsible for the death of the deceased person, the coroner’s inquest is a central part in the legal system.

In the case of the death of Peter Verigin and others on October 29, 1924, the inquests occurred very quickly after the death – 19 hours later for the Grand Forks inquest. This speed has advantages and disadvantages. It begins the legal process immediately and may turn up important clues. But because it is organized promptly, there might not be opportunity to amass or consider a variety of evidence. This would be the role of a trial. In the deaths resulting from the explosion on the Kettle Valley Line, there never was a trial, so the inquests in Grand Forks and Nelson became the primary quasi-judicial arena in which evidence was produced.