Late Monday night, an explosion and fire ripped through the Lakewood Mills sawmill near downtown Prince George. Workers were rushed to hospitals in Prince George, Vancouver and Edmonton. Now, two of those workers have passed away. Tuesday evening in Edmonton, Glenn Francis Roche, aged 46, of Prince George was confirmed dead. Tuesday morning, Alan Little, aged 43, died at University Hospital of Northern British Columbia in Prince George. Barb McClintock speaks for the B.C. Coroner's Service.
Families of both the workers have been notified. Other families, too, are dealing with the aftermath of the explosion and fire. Over two dozen Lakeland Mills employees were rushed to hospital on Monday. Even those who escaped without physical harm are dealing with the trauma. Cindy Coté
is friends with the family of one of those workers. She told Daybreak North what's she's heard it was like inside Monday night's disaster.
First responders are also grappling with the aftermath of the explosion and fire. John Lane is the fire chief in Prince George. He joined Daybreak for an emotional interview this morning.
This is, of course, the second such mill explosion to take place in northern B.C. this year. In January, Burns Lake was rocked by the destruction of that community's main employer. Now, the union responsible for mill employees in Prince George and Burns Lake is looking at how to prevent more of these incidents. Bob Matters is chair of the Wood Council of the United Steelworker's Union.
The union is not alone in asking questions about mill safety.Yesterday, the B.C. government announced that ALL mills in the province will be inspected for safety, particularly when it comes to sawdust levels. Mary MacDiarmid is the province's Labour Minister.
Senior Vice-President of Human Resources and Corporate Services Roberta Ellis announced the decision to inspect safety conditions during a press conference yesterday. But reporters asked Ellis why WorkSafe B.C. didn't order the inspections after the Burns Lake sawmill disaster in January. Here's her response.
For now, the link between pine beetle wood and the mill explosions in Burns Lake and Prince George is nothing more than speculation. But Neil McManus believes it's a link worth inspecting, and inspecting fast. He's an industrial hygienist, and owner of NorthWest Occupational Health and Safety. He was on our afternoon show Radio West yesterday.
Also following this story is Roger Harris. He's the B.C. Forest Safety Council ombudsman. He spoke with Carolina De Ryk this morning.
Coverage of this story continues throughout the day on CBC Radio, TV and at CBC.ca/bc
. Tomorrow on Daybreak we will continue to bring you all the developments and the stories in the wake of this disaster.