British Columbia

3 victims identified in deadly Fernie arena gas leak

The BC Coroners Service has identified the three men killed after an ammonia leak as 59-year-old Wayne Hornquist, 52-year-old Lloyd Smith of Fernie and 46-year-old Jason Podloski of Turner Valley, Alberta.

Coroner confirms names, city operations shut down Friday to allow staff to grieve

LLoyd Smith, left, and Jason Podloski, right, died after an ammonia leak at the Fernie Memorial Arena on Oct. 17. Smith lived in Fernie and Podloski was from Turner Valley, Alta. (Facebook)

The BC Coroners Service has identified the three men killed after an ammonia leak in Fernie, B.C. as city operations shut down Friday to give staff time to grieve.

Of the men who died at the local arena on Tuesday, two were city employees while the third victim was a Calgary-based employee of CIMCO Refrigeration.

The coroners service has identified the victims as:

  • 59-year-old Wayne Hornquist of Fernie.
  • 52-year-old Lloyd Smith of Fernie.
  • 46-year-old Jason Podloski of Turner Valley, Alberta.

WorkSafeBC, RCMP investigating

"The BC Coroners Service continues to investigate the circumstances of these deaths," wrote Andy Watson, manager of strategic communications in a release.

WorkSafeBC, Technical Safety BC, the RCMP and the employer are all taking part in the investigation.

A memorial for the three men has been set up outside Fernie City Hall. (Chris Inglis)

Residents in the tight-knit mountain community are now sharing memories of the victims.

Chris Inglis knew Hornquist for most of his life and briefly worked with him at the city. 

"He was just a remarkable man and it's hard to believe that he's gone," said Inglis.

"We would talk everything from hockey to politics. He was busy doing his job and everything else, but he always made time to talk."

The municipality of Fernie shut down operations on Friday to allow staff time to mourn.

Council meetings for next Monday have also been cancelled.

Resident Trevor Semchuck and his three-year-old son Gus visited a makeshift memorial to the victims located at City Hall.

"You can tell everybody in town has a heavy heart," he said.

"Fernie is small enough, whether we knew [the victims] or not ... it really hit close to home for a lot of people."

'Touched the heart' of community

"Residents are reacting as one might expect, they're pulling together," said Randal Macnair, a longtime resident of Fernie and former mayor who knew the victims personally.

"There has been an incredible support network that has just moved and spread throughout the community."

An evacuation order for the area immediately around the Fernie Memorial Arena remains in effect.

Macnair, who described Fernie as a "resilient place," said community members are offering evacuees shelter, food and support.

"The arena is a hub of our community. It's a place where people have grown up, it's a place where people have watched their children grow," he said.

"It's touched the heart of most of the community right in a place that's usually a very safe place for us."