British Columbia

Island community reeling from loss of 2 beloved locals killed in construction accident

Sheila Malcolmson, MLA for Nanaimo and a resident of Gabriola Island, says the deaths of two men who were killed on a job site Tuesday has sent shockwaves across the Gulf Island.

Friends Marc Doré and Chris Straw died working on Straw and his wife's future Gabriola Island dream home

Marc Doré, left, and Chris Straw, right with his beloved grandson Luca, were well-known Gabriola Island residents who died Tuesday in a construction accident while working together on Straw and his wife's future home. (Huguette Grenier-Doré/Submitted by Margy Gilmour)

As the sun set over the Salish Sea Wednesday, dozens of Gabriola Islanders, separated from each other but united in their grief, mourned the loss of two locals whose lives ended unexpectedly this week.

Chris Straw and Marc Doré, good friends and long-time island residents, were working together Tuesday on what was to be Straw's dream home on Gabriola when the boom of a concrete pump-truck broke, landing on the men and killing them both.

After Straw and Doré were identified, tributes flooded social media and Sheila Malcolmson, MLA for Nanaimo and a Gabriola Island resident, told CBC's On The Island the community is devastated by the news.

"They're reeling," she said, adding those who attended the scene have also been hit hard.

"I'm really thinking of the first responders — paramedics and firefighters — that worked so hard to save these good men's lives and that has [sent] shock waves out into their own families," said Malcolmson.

Gathering restrictions due to COVID are why people put out a call on Facebook to watch the sun sink safely together.

Sunset gazing was also a well-known pastime of Straw's, who was an artist and photographer and dedicated many volunteer hours to the Gabriola Arts Council.

A sunset image from Orlebar Point on Gabriola Island taken by Chris Straw and shared on social media in 2015. (Instagram/strawc)

Both men are retired employees of CBC who had found new passions in island life.

For Doré and his wife Huguette Grenier-Doré, that included home building, something Malcolmson said they excelled at, calling them a powerhouse duo that created beautiful places — first for themselves and then for others.

"They did it in such partnership, it was just evident to all of us," said Malcolmson.

Malcolmson said Straw was not only an incredible artist, but also an activist who she had enjoyed working with in his role as president of the Gabriolans Against Freighter Anchorages Society. 

"Chris navigated that inter-island advocacy process with great diplomacy," she said, adding his efforts had a lasting impact on the marine environment he loved so much.

Impact at CBC

Doré's work at the public broadcaster focused on television, specifically French-language programming for kids and youth, as well as general programming. 

He was based in Edmonton, where he served as executive producer for Radio-Canada. He was involved in creating the series Autoroute Électronique, SMAC, c:qui? c/moi! and Clan Destin.

Doré retired from Radio-Canada in 1999.

Straw's influence on programming and on those around him was enormous, according to former colleagues.

Shelagh Rogers, a close family friend and host of The Next Chapter on CBC Radio, remembers Straw's skill in recognizing the ability of others before they even saw it themselves, and always elevating those around him.

"He always wanted to help," said Rogers, noting his extremely dry wit.

Anna Bonokoski, who was hired by Straw as an associate producer on the radio program Basic Black, said working with him included non-stop humour.

"We were always laughing. You could walk by our offices and wonder 'Oh my God, how do these people get anything done? It sounds like they're goofing off all the time,'" said Bonokoski.

That sense of humour would have been heard by radio listeners, even though Straw remained behind the scenes, she said. 

"He was the voice of Arthur Black. He was the reason This is That was on the air. He was the person behind the Irrelevant Show," said Bonokoski. "Even if he didn't create those shows, he was the executive that said yes."

"He took comedy seriously. He knew how to use it, he knew were it belonged and when. He was just so gifted," she said.

Accident investigation

A Gabriola company headed by Doré and Huguette Grenier-Doré was building the house where the accident occurred. It was to be the new home of Straw and his wife, Margy Gilmour.

Chris Straw was helping building a house for himself and his wife, Margy Gilmour, when he was killed on the job site Tuesday. (Submitted by Margy Gilmour)

The BC Coroners Service and WorkSafeBC are investigating the accident.

Malcolmson said she worries about locals who are mourning but could be isolated due to COVID-19 and suggested people check in on one another.

"It's been such a hard year and to have this disaster come at the end of it is extremely tough," she said.

Crisis lines across B.C. operate for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, connecting callers with staff or volunteers who are trained to be empathetic, non-judgmental listeners.

By calling the provincial toll-free number 310-6789 you will be connected with a call taker in your area.

LISTEN | Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson remembers Chris Straw and Marc Doré:

Kathryn Marlow spoke with Sheila Malcolmson, the MLA for Nanaimo and a resident of Gabriola Island, about an accident that left two men dead. 7:19

On The Island

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