April 26, 2012 at 3:17 PM
'We are a community in mourning'
Calls for 'accountability' as city loses employment as well as loved ones
As workers head to their jobs today, they should be given big hugs, says a Prince George man in mourning over that city's tragic sawmill fire.
"When a family member heads to work today, whether they're a truck driver or in the service industry, give them a hug," Coun. Brian Skakun said Wednesday.
"Be grateful to have them in your family, whether they're a child or a parent," he said.
Skakun, who works at a pulp mill, is among the city's 87,000 residents saddened by two deaths and 22 injuries at an explosion and fire Monday that destroyed the Lakeland saw-mill.
Skakun knew Glenn Roche, 46, one of two workers who was killed. The other was Alan Little, 43.
"Roche was a heck of a nice guy. I feel so bad for his family, losing him like that," said Skakun.
"It's a terrible thing. The community is in shock.
"They were just normal people going to work with their lunch buckets, looking to put a roof over their heads."
Skakun said workers are "concerned" about the mill's destruction, as well as a similar fire and explosion that wiped out the Babine Forest Products mill in Burns Lake three months ago.
Two workers also lost their lives in that conflagration.
"When you go to work and don't come back, people start to ask questions," Skakun said.
Saturday, April 28, will have special meaning in Prince George this year, he said. The date is International Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured on the job.
"It will be a big event," he said.
"It will be a really heartfelt ceremony."
Frank Everitt, president of the United Steelworkers in Prince George, said he has encountered anger among workers.
"For sure, there is emotion in the process. Everybody wants to have accountability," Everitt said.
"We are a community in mourning. Lives have been lost as well as employment. We need to have some answers."
Some of the dozens of B.C. Ambulance paramedics who responded to Monday's emergency were the same ones who assisted in the Burns Lake fire in January.
Mike Michalko, Ambulance Service director of rural operations, said 10 ambulances were deployed from Prince George, Vanderhoof, Quesnel and Wells.
Seven aircraft were also launched from B.C. and Alberta to assist with patients' transport to Vancouver, Victoria and Edmonton.
"We're very proud of our paramedics. They really stepped up. This was not part of our day-to-day work," said Michalko.
"It was a tragic event. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families."