Bear attack at Suncor site kills 1 worker

A Suncor employee is killed by a bear at the company’s Oil Sands base, 25 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.

Worker's name has not been released

A Suncor employee has been killed by a bear at the company’s Oil Sands base, 25 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, Alta.

The RCMP say they were called just after 2 p.m. MT Wednesday after receiving reports of a large, male black bear attacking and killing a worker at the Suncor base camp.

The female worker was declared dead on the scene.

RCMP members shot and killed the male bear, who was still in the area when they arrived.

Wood Buffalo RCMP have now turned the scene over to Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development workers.

OHS investigation underway

A spokesman for Occupational Health and Safety said it will be conducting its own investigation into the woman’s death, working alongside Suncor and officers with the Fish and Wildlife Division.

Barrie Harrison said OHS would be looking into exactly what happened — including whether the worker was alone at the time of the attack — as well as examining how the company assesses and guards against hazards like wild animals on site.

“We have a lot of different environments in this province of ours — we have lots of different types of wildlife,” he said. “For the most part, companies are very good at understanding what the hazards are and having mechanisms in place to deal with those hazards.”

Harrison said attacks like this are very rare in the province.

“I do know that, certainly from an Occupational Health and Safety perspective, this is the first that I’m aware of having a worker either seriously injured or killed by a bear of any variety.”

Suncor releases statement

“We are extending our heartfelt condolences to the family and we have activated counselling for our people on site and are encouraging them to take part in that service if they need to,” said Suncor spokeswoman Sneh Seetal on Wednesday night.

Seetal, who said she has never heard of anything like this before, said the attack happened at a company base camp.

“It’s a big operation, a big facility, so I wouldn't categorize it as a remote facility,” she said.

Although Seetal was unable to comment whether there were fences around the facility, she said that all workers participate in regular wildlife interaction training sessions.

“We don't know why this happened. We are reminding people to be especially vigilant in dealing with wildlife. That’s why it's so important we conduct a full investigation and work with the regulatory bodies to determine what happened in this tragic situation,” she added.

Seetal said the company is in the process of informing the victim’s family.

The worker's name has not yet been released.