City of Fernie allowed back into ice rink 3 months after deadly ammonia leak

The City of Fernie was allowed to go back into the Fernie Memorial Arena this week three months after three men were killed in a suspected ammonia leak.

East Kootenay city hopes to reopen arena to skaters next fall

In October 2017, three workers were killed in an ammonia leak at the Fernie Memorial Arena. (Lauren Krugel/The Canadian Press)

Three months after three men died in a suspected ammonia leak at the local hockey rink in Fernie, B.C., the building has been handed back to the city.

On October 17, 2017, two city workers and a Calgary-based employee of CIMCO Refrigeration were killed in the leak at the Fernie Memorial Arena.

Since then, the rink has been closed to the public for the investigation, but this week, city staff were given the all clear to go back in.

"Obviously I've got mixed emotions, but it's time," said Norm McInnis, Fernie's chief administrative officer.

"There was a catastrophic accident on Oct. 17, but the facility has been sitting without any power for a number of months."

"We are going in with a group to assess what sort of damage has taken place," he said.

McInnis said crews will be installing a new refrigeration plant. They will also carefully inspect the brine lines that run underneath the ice's insulating pads.

"It's time for us to get back in and do our level best to get hockey and figure skating back on the ice," he said.

The city hope to have the facility repaired and reopened by the fall.

Investigation reports pending

Reports from the RCMP, WorkSafeBC and Technical Safety B.C. on the deadly ammonia leak have yet to be released.

Lloyd Smith of Fernie, left, and Jason Podloski of Turner Valley, Alta., right, died after an ammonia leak at the Fernie Memorial Arena. Wayne Hornquist of Fernie was the accident's third victim. (Facebook)

Earlier this month, court documents revealed the City of Fernie filed an application with B.C. provincial court asking for the right to copy two log books, detailing maintenance of the rink's refrigeration system, that it says were illegally obtained by the RCMP.

But a provincial judge denied Fernie's request, arguing the city could be a "suspect" in the criminal probe.

With files from CBC's Bob Keating.