Inuvik to remember 19-year-old with memorial, road naming, 1 year after his death

One year after a 19-year-old man died in a workplace accident in Inuvik, the town is ensuring he won't be forgotten, unveiling a pair of tributes to David Vinnicombe.

Monument, access road will be dedicated to David Vinnicombe, who died in construction rollover

A hand hold a framed photograph of a young boy with his dog.
19-year-old David Vinnicombe came to Inuvik from Australia to go on the 'adventure of a lifetime,' said his father, Robbie, before he was killed in a workplace accident. One year after his death, the town will name an access road in his honour. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

One year after a 19-year-old man died in a workplace accident in Inuvik, the town is ensuring he won't be forgotten, unveiling a pair of tributes to David Vinnicombe.

On June 28 — the one year anniversary of Vinnicombe's tragic death when the machine he was driving in rolled over — the new access road for the Inuvik Satellite Station Facility, where Vinnicombe was working when the accident occurred, will be named in his memory.

The road will be named "Longreach," said mayor Jim McDonald, after Vinnicombe's home community in Australia.

"We thought it was an appropriate name," McDonald said.

The company that Vinnicombe worked for, Allen Services & Contracting Limited, has a made a monument in his honour, which will be placed near the road.

The monument ceremony will occur on the satellite access road Wednesday. Councilors will vote to approve the naming of the road later that night.

'What we lost was very dear'

Vinnicombe's family, who are in town from Australia for the ceremony, told town council Monday evening that their hometown of Longreach is "identical" to Inuvik, in terms of it being a small remote town with "extreme weather on the other side of the spectrum… the same economic situation, and social circumstances with youth. It's just on the opposite side of the world."

David's parents, Robbie and Renee Vinnicombe, and his aunt, Jacquie Vinnicombe, thanked Mayor McDonald for the support that he has given them.

"What we lost was very dear," said Robbie. "We are dealing with it and I think it's a fine gesture from this part of the world."

Last month, the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission laid nine charges against Allen Services & Contracting Limited and David's supervisor, Brian McCarthy.

A year later, the Vinnicombes say they are still waiting to receive a coroner's report. The family has announced their intention to work to improve worker safety in the North, with the hope of protecting youth like David in the future.

"Our purpose of being here is not self-serving," said Jacqui. "This is for your workers as well as your youth. That's putting David at the forefront for making a change for the better."

Robbie Vinnicombe says the accident was completely preventable, and they are frustrated with the lack of action by the government.

Jacqui Vinnicombe, left, and Robbie Vinnicombe speak at Inuvik town council Monday evening. The family says that they are frustrated by a lack of information one year after David's death, and still haven't seen a coroner's report. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)
"Someone could get on that exact same machine, and have that exact same thing happen today," he said.

The lack of government activity has led the Vinnicombes to work with Allen Services directly. Jacqui gave credit to the company, saying that "they are positive... about working towards the future and effectively implementing so nobody can get killed in the same manner."

The family says that part of the purpose of the trip is to establish links in the community and to help make a difference in some way.

During the town council meeting, McDonald said that this has been a learning process, and that although safety is a focus in the construction industry, there is still a long way to go.

"It's only generally through tragic accidents or incidents like this that change comes," he said. "We certainly hope that there will be change made."