British Columbia

Police identify 4 people killed in B.C. mine

Police have identified the four people who were killed at a decommissioned mine this week in Kimberley in southeastern British Columbia.

Police have identified the four people who were killed at a decommissioned mine this week in Kimberley in southeastern British Columbia.

Ambulance attendants unload one of the
victims from the Kimberley mining tragedy
at the Cranbrook hospital on Wednesday.
(Cranbrook Daily Townsman-Gerry Warner/CP)
They also said it appears three men and a woman were overcome by fumes from hydrogen sulphide, also known as sour gas, which interferes with the body's ability to use oxygen.

The victims are:

  • Douglas Erickson, 48, a contractor from nearby Ha Ha Creek.
  • Robert Newcombe, 49, a Teck Cominco employee who lived in Cranbrook, about 30 kilometres south of Kimberley.
  • Kim Weitzel, 44, a paramedic from Kimberley.
  • Shawn Currier, 21, a paramedic who lived in Cranbrook.

The victims apparently succumbed to fumes in a small building at the decommissioned Sullivan mine, where Erickson had been testing the water.

Firemen 'visibly shaking' over tragedy

The Sullivan mine was shut down
in December 2001. (CBC)
"Some of the firemen who attended the scene indicated to me this was one of the worst incidents they'd encountered," Jim Ogilvie, the mayor of Kimberley, told CBC News.

"They were visibly shaking when I talked to them."

The bodies of the four victims were recovered Wednesday.

The shed, which measures just nine square metres, has a hole in its floor through which technicians perform monthly tests on water draining from the former lead, zinc and silver mine owned by Teck Cominco.

Erickson was apparently overcome by fumes when he entered the pump house shed on Monday to perform tests. His spouse sounded the alert when he hadn't been heard from two days later.

Newcombe then went into the shed, saw Erickson's body floating in the well and called 911 for help before collapsing himself.

The two paramedics who rushed to the scene also succumbed to fumes in the shed.

'Oxygen-deficient atmosphere' in shed

All four bodies were recovered by a fire rescue crew equipped with oxygen masks.

"What we're dealing with today is something that's unexpected and unexperienced in our company," Dave Parker, Teck Cominco's director of corporate affairs, said Wednesday.

Fred Hermann, B.C.'s chief mines inspector, wouldn't speculate about the exact cause of the deaths.

"We do know there was an oxygen-deficient atmosphere inside the shed," Hermann said.

Most people in Kimberley, a community of about 6,600, are in shock, said high school teacher Jerry Brennan.

"This is the worst thing that could happen," Brennan said. "An attempt to try to help someone ... just went in a terribly wrong direction."

The Sullivan mine closed in December 2001 after 92 years of operation. At its height, it employed 1,000 people.