Calgary

Father of Cargill worker becomes 2nd person to die in massive outbreak linked to slaughterhouse

Armando Sallegue, a widower from the Philippines who once dreamed of joining the seminary, had travelled to Alberta to visit his son's family. But his son works for the Cargill meat-packing plant near High River that has been struggling with the largest single COVD-19 outbreak in North America.

Dad was visiting from Philippines when virus struck and he died May 5 in hospital

Armando Sallegue's death was the second linked to the outbreak at the Cargill plant north of High River. His son pointed out that his father died on what would have been his deceased wife's birthday in the Philippines. (Arwyn Sallegue)

Armando Sallegue, a widower from the Philippines who once dreamed of joining the seminary, had travelled to Alberta to visit his son's family. But his son works for the Cargill meat-packing plant near High River that has been struggling with the largest single COVD-19 outbreak in North America.

Armando Sallegue developed symptoms and was sent to hospital on the same day that his son, Arwyn Sallegue, was first diagnosed with the illness, on April 23.

Twelve days later, the grandfather died of the infection.

Armando's is the second death linked to the outbreak. A 67-year-old woman, Hiep Bui, who worked at the plant for more than two decades, died in late April. In total, the plant has been linked to 1,560 cases, with 946 employees who tested positive.

"He's my idol, my mentor. He makes me who I am, the way I'm strong, especially in dealing with this situation," said Sallegue about his dad. 

Quick to make friends

He says his father was quick to make friends in Canada. 

Sallegue says he's been overwhelmed by people offering help and kind words, even those who met his father just once.

"We miss him," said Sallegue. 

"Even our kids, they say they're saddened because they made a painting welcoming our dad to recover and to go home, and even we prepared the bed and the room for our dad when he comes home from the hospital."

Armando died at 6:15 p.m. in the Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary, and Sallegue says they were able to say goodbye over FaceTime. 

Armando was a deeply religious man who once entered seminary in order to become a priest, but he was removed from his lessons by his mother. 

Still, that faith stayed with him and has been passed down to his son. 

'He's reunited with my mom'

What also stayed with Armando was the love of his wife, who died three years prior and whose birthday was May 6. Sallegue notes the day had already changed over in the Philippines when his dad died.  

"My dad told my brother that he kept dreaming that our mom said it's time to go with me," said Sallegue. 

"He's reunited with my mom and that's the gift of my dad to my mom."

The family is planning a memorial for Armando this weekend that will be live streamed for the local community as well as friends and family abroad. 

Cargill outbreak

Workers started returning to the Cargill plant on Monday as the company faces criticism over the way it handled the outbreak and employee concerns. The union representing workers tried to prevent the reopening but was unsuccessful. 

The plant has been linked to 1,560 cases, and a total of 946 employees have tested positive.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said provincial health and occupational safety officials are visiting the site regularly.

She said she's been assured that controls are in place at the facility and said an investigation is underway to determine if there was any potential non-compliance of regulations that may have led to the outbreak.

Sallegue, however, will not be heading back to work just yet. 

"My supervisor told me in his opinion I do not need to go back to work because of my situation, because my emotion is not yet stable and our work there is dangerous because we're holding knives," he said. 

"So he told me to get some rest and take care of my family."

The company said in an emailed statement that it knows how deeply the pandemic has impact the community and the plant. 

"Our deepest condolences go out to the family," it reads.

About the Author

Drew Anderson is a web journalist at CBC Calgary. Like almost every journalist working today, he's won a few awards. He's also a third-generation Calgarian. You can follow him on Twitter @drewpanderson. Contact him in confidence at drew.anderson@cbc.ca. Signal contact upon request. CBC Secure Drop: www.cbc.ca/securedrop/

With files from Sarah Rieger

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