Gabriola Island is reeling from the loss of two men known for their service to the community.
Chris Straw and Marc Doré have been identified as the men who died Tuesday when the boom of a concrete pump truck broke while pouring the foundation for a home.
Both men died at the scene despite the efforts of the Gabriola Volunteer Fire Department and B.C. Ambulance Service to save the men’s lives.
Carol Fergusson, Gabriola Arts Council executive director, said she knew Doré as a gentle man, well-respected in the community and as a builder of fine homes on the island.
“He and his wife Huguette were very well-respected builders. They made beautiful, beautiful homes,” Fergusson said.
Fergusson said Doré had a quick wit and a great laugh.
Chris Straw, Fergusson said, was heavily involved with the arts council and took part in the renovation and construction of the arts council’s buildings.
“His pickup truck was used a lot to do things for the arts council … he’s also the best emcee the island’s ever seen. He was just great with a crowd – a very dry sense of humour and a quick wit,” Fergusson said. “He was a teaser. He liked to tease everyone. I was looking forward to getting to know him better to find out what the teasing really meant.”
Straw, she said, was a dedicated husband and a wonderful father who was “especially smitten” with his grandson Luca, whom Straw and his wife Margy Gilmour were home-schooling during the pandemic while the boy’s parents worked.
Both men and their families are well-known in the community of about 4,500 through their volunteer work.
“They knew so many people because they had been here for quite some time and they just were involved in so many different aspects of the community,” Fergusson said. “Chris didn’t just volunteer for the Gabriola Arts Council, he volunteered all over the place and would be the first one to help anyone and the same with Marc, so the ripple effect throughout the community has been absolutely astounding.”
Straw and Doré were retired CBC employees.
Sheila Malcolmson, Nanaimo MLA and Gabriola Island resident, worked with Straw on the freighter anchorages issue.
“He’s really part of my island family, particularly on the anchorages issue, and we did a lot of work together when I was MP,” Malcolmson said. “We got him out to Ottawa to testify to the transportation committee. We did a lot of stuff together for a lot of years and it continued and I thought it would carry on a whole lot longer. It’s a real shock.”
Malcolmson said Doré and his wife loved their home-building work, which was much different from their careers prior to retiring to the island.
“They were going to build the dream home for Chris Straw and Margy Gilmour,” she said.
Straw was a full-time artist, but Malcolmson knew him as a man who crafted a constructive voice from the anger and frustration felt by Gulf Islands residents over the freighter anchorage issue.
“Chris Straw was extremely skillful at being able to bring all those voices together, channel them into a government process that was solution-oriented, was something that moved the issue forward and knit together people in communities that had never worked together before … he brought forward a lot of diplomacy and strategic thinking that really made a difference,” Malcolmson said.
She said Straw emceed both happy and sad occasions on Gabriola Island.
“Often when there’d be a loss in the community, Chris would be the one who be the master of ceremonies or be the one who gave the eulogy … he was just the kind of guy who stepped up in times of need,” Malcolmson said. “We are going to have to do that without him this time.”
Faron Parlee, manager for Bedrock Redi-Mix, the company delivering and pouring the concrete on the site Tuesday, expressed the company’s sentiments in an e-mailed statement Thursday.
“We are in shock and are extremely concerned about the impact to these individuals’ families and friends,” the statement noted. “Bedrock Redi-Mix is fully co-operating with the site management and all provincial safety authorities.”
An investigation into the incident by WorkSafe B.C. and the B.C. Coroners Service is continuing.