City officials delivered a third update this afternoon on their investigation into the fatal ammonia leak that claimed three lives.
The BC Coroners Service released the names of the three victims this morning; 59-year-old Wayne Hornquist and 52-year-old Lloyd Smith from Fernie, and 46-year-old Jason Podloski from Turner Valley, Alta.
Fire Chief Ted Ruiter, Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano, Lloyd Smith’s sister, Karen Smith-Myles and Grief Team volunteer, Cheryl McDougall were present at the press conference.
The Fire Chief explained some of the struggles they are up against, as responding to a hazardous material incident is a very complicated process.
“I know everyone is frustrated with our timelines but we can’t rush this because the risk is too dangerous,” he said.
The evacuation order will remain in place for the time being. Additional resources have been set up, and crews hope to make progress soon. A pressure vessel on its way from Edmonton has the ability to draw the ammonia from the system, contain it, and export it where it can be disposed of safely. It is expected to arrive at 10 p.m tonight. An ammonia odour has surrounded the arena, but crews would like to ensure the public that they are continuing to monitor these levels.
Mayor Giuliano explained that this has been a difficult week for everyone.
“There are no words that can adequately portray our sorrow,” she said.
She remembers when Hornquist, who was born and raised in Fernie, started with the City as a young man, back in July of 1992 working with crews to take care of City parks. Soon after, he moved into a position at the arena as chief facilities operator. He was hardworking and well respected by his entire crew. He claimed to be the best Zamboni driver around, as he could finish cleaning the ice in one less lap than everyone else.
When he wasn’t busy making sure everything was running smoothly, Hornquist could be seen proudly watching his daughter Stephanie, figure skate.
“… Wayne was a family man,” said Giuliano.
Hornquist spent much time gardening with his wife, and exercising his love for the outdoors in the wilderness with his family. He was also a handyman, and could build almost anything.
“He was one of our go-to people for the past 25 years, and he will be sorely missed,” said the Mayor.
She spoke of Podloski, the Cimco employee who had strong ties to the Fernie community as well, adding that all three men will be dearly missed.
Smith started working as Director of Leisure Services with the City on August 14 2015. In his two years here, the Mayor believes he made a profound impact on the community.
“He brought with him a strong passion for energy and project management, and particularly environmental and social sustainability,” she said.
She considers him a mentor to his staff, who was extraordinarily proud of them and committed to his job.
She noted that two of his most prized projects were the recent Canada 150 events and the redevelopment of the Station Square.
“He was truly one-of-a-kind,” said Giuliano.
Smith was a pilot, a paramedic and a two-time Ironman competitor, who she says shared his passion for adventure with his son.
“We are devastated by his loss,” said Karen Smith-Myles, Lloyd Smith’s sister as she thanked the community for the outpouring of support.
“We would like to thank everyone for the support that we’ve received over the last few days, and offer our most sincere condolences to the other two families,” she said.
The Smith family has found comfort, she said, hearing about how many lives Lloyd has touched through stories and anecdotes over the past days.
“Lloyd was a loving brother, a caring leader and a proud, proud father,” she said, before reading a note from Lloyd’s 13-year-old son Evan.
He wrote that he cannot express in words how difficult this time is.
“He was loved by so many,” she said, as she read from the note.
Cheryl McDougall, a member of the provincial grief team that has arrived in Fernie is part of a team of social workers and counsellors who volunteer their time in communities experiencing tragedy.
“We’re here to provide psychosocial first aid and guide you through some difficult times that you’re experiencing right now,” she said, explaining that her role is to help the wider community grapple with the loss.
The team has set up a clinic at the College of the Rockies, where they will be providing support for the next few days.
The team can be reached at 250-489-9677 or by contacting Jen Asselin with Victim Services at 250-423-1831.
“I know that grief isn’t a nine to five experience,” she said, adding that the 24-hour mental health line number, which is 250-310- 6789.
“My thoughts and prayers are with all of your community.”