Mourning has spread throughout the Elk Valley, and the municipalities of Sparwood and Elkford have joined in the lowering of their flags to half-mast, in mourning of the lives lost within a municipal facility. Alexandra Heck/The Free Press

Fernie mourns after fatal ammonia leak

The community of Fernie is coming together to support each other following a local tragedy.

A memorial of flowers and cards are already starting to be placed around the Fernie Arena following a tragic incident that cost three people their lives.

Mourning has spread throughout the Elk Valley, and the municipalities of Sparwood and Elkford have joined in the lowering of their flags to half-mast, in mourning of the lives lost within a municipal facility.

“Our thoughts and prayers as a community are with these families as they try to begin the struggle to cope with their unbearable loss,” stated Sparwood Mayor McDougall.

Elkford Mayor McKerracher shared his thoughts.

“As a community we are deeply saddened by the loss suffered by our neighbours in Fernie. We send our condolences to the families.”

On Tuesday, Emergency Crews were called to the arena after reports of an ammonia leak in the building. As they arrived on scene they discovered a citizen administering CPR to an individual, then according to Fire Chief Ted Ruiter, crews entered the building and discovered two more victims.

RELATED: Three workers identified as victims of Fernie ammonia leak

Fire crews were forced to evacuate due to the hazardous material and no one has since been able to enter the building. The material is believed to be anhydrous ammonia used in refrigeration.

As word spread among the community of over 5000 it became apparent that at least two city workers and possibly an out-of-town contractor had died in the incident.

Resident Chris Inglis who runs a local Facebook group, Fernie: The good, the bad, changes and suggestions, was the first to place flowers near the arena in memory of the city workers.

He then left for the bank after residents suggested he create a memorial fund for the families of the victims.

While the city copes with the loss of two of its residents, many others remain out of their homes near the arena as an evacuation order is in place.

RELATED: City of Fernie declares state of local emergency after fatal ammonia leak

The City of Fernie has closed the Fernie Aquatic Centre for Wednesday, while the Fernie Memorial Arena, the Curling Club, and the Community Centre will remain closed until further notice; following the tragedy.

The local cafe, Mugshots, is also offering complimentary meals and coffee to anyone who has been evacuated in Fernie.

While around the East Kootenay and the province an out pour of support is being offered to the small ski town with the trending hashtag #FernieStrong.

B.C. Premier John Horgan also gave his condolences stating; “This is a tragic situation. Families and friends are grieving, and our hearts are with them. We want to thank those who responded so quickly and valiantly, such as the Fernie Fire Department, Elk Valley RCMP and the BC Ambulance Service.”

The leak at the arena was first reported to emergency officials at 11:30 a.m; however the city posted to social media at 7 a.m. that the Arena will be closed today while crews complete emergency repairs to the refrigeration plant.


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jen.zielinski@bpdigital.ca

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