'Real leader' truck driver dies in medical event at Cavendish Farms construction site

The driver of a concrete truck has died from what investigators are calling a medical event at the new Cavendish potato plant in Lethbridge, Alta.

Employees of Lafarge Northwest 'quite distraught' over John Zalik's death, manager says

Cavendish Farms is building a new potato processing plant, not pictured, in Lethbridge, Alta. A worker died following an incident on the construction site Wednesday. (CBC)

The driver of a concrete truck has died from what investigators are calling a medical event at the new Cavendish potato plant in Lethbridge, Alta.

John Zalik, an employee of Lafarge Northwest, was well-respected and well-liked by everyone from colleagues to customers, company general manager Mike Schmidtler said.

"We lost a real leader here. A lot of our employees are quite distraught," Schmidtler said. "It's a huge loss emotionally to us."

Alberta Labour spokesperson Trent Bancarz said investigators have determined the 57-year-old man died from a medical event that was not related to the workplace. The investigation is now closed.

It happened around 8 a.m. Wednesday, and he was then taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Schmidter said Zalik was doing "absolutely normal, routine tasks that he's done for 28 years, discharging concrete from his truck." At the time, he declined to provide further details, noting the investigation by authorities.

Cavendish Farms, which is owned by New Brunswick-based J.D. Irving Inc., is building a $360-million potato processing plant in Lethbridge to replace the existing one that it says is old and outdated. Construction is being managed by EllisDon and is expected to be done by Fall 2019.

EllisDon subcontracted Lafarge to provide concrete. Work has stopped on the site pending the investigation by police and health and safety officials, EllisDon said in a statement.

Negotiated for workers

The two companies offered condolences to Zalik's family, friends and colleagues.

"John was our most senior employee. He was an absolute leader in our business, and I'm not just saying that," Schmidter said. 

Zalik was the past president of the Lethbridge Concrete Products Association, which the manager described as the group that does collective bargaining for employees in lieu of a union. He represented workers, "amazingly well" for many years, Schmidter said.

He personally feels the loss acutely, and said he was at the hospital with Zalik's wife when she learned of her husband's death. Lafarge was offering a grief counsellor to workers Thursday.

About the Author

Rachel Ward

Journalist

Rachel Ward is a journalist with CBC Calgary. You can reach her with questions or story ideas at rachel.ward@cbc.ca.

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