Sister hopes inquest into roofing worker deaths brings better safety protocol

The announcement of an inquest into the death of Michael Maukonen stirs up emotions for his family, almost three years after he died.

‘Me and my family miss him so much and so dearly'

Michael Maukonen, pictured in his childhood. (Submitted by Jocelyn Harris)

The announcement of an inquest into the death of Michael Maukonen stirs up emotions for his family, almost three years after he died.

Maukonen was always a positive and uplifting person, according to his younger sister Jocelyn Harris.

"He never backed down from something. He was a hard worker. And when he wanted something, he was motivated and he got it,`said Harris.

On Dec. 11, 2015, Maukonen, from Oldcastle, fell from the roof of a home which was being reshingled. He was crossing the roof to throw out shingles and didn't reattach his lanyard to the safety line.

Impact on the family

His injuries left him in a coma for months before he died — a difficult thing for his family to experience.

"For those seven and a half months, he had his eyes open, but he could never respond to us or interact with us, or make his silly little comments that he usually does," said Harris.

Michael Maukonen fell from a roof in December 2015. He was in a comatose state for months before passing away in 2016. (Submitted by Jocelyn Harris)

It was especially hard on their mother, who used to talk to Maukonen on the phone regularly.

"It was really hard to realize that a person you love to talk to, can't talk to you anymore," Harris said.

Maukonen passed away a day before Harris's high school graduation. Harris had to walk across her graduation stage to receive her diploma, knowing he couldn't be there to watch.

"That hurt me a lot."

Joint inquest

Dr. Rick Mann, regional supervising coroner for west region, announced the inquest Feb. 6. It will be a joint inquest which also examines the circumstances around the deaths of John Jannssens, 73, and William Swan, 56.

Dayus Roofing Inc. was fined $90,000 in the death of Michael Maukonen in 2017. (Derek Spalding/CBC)

"They were grouped together because they were as a result of fall that occurred, or injuries from falls while they were in roof construction projects," said Mann.

In 2017, the roofing company where Maukonen worked, Dayus Roofing Inc., pleaded guilty to failing to ensure workplace safety standards were met. The Windsor company was fined $90,000.

'Hurt my parents deeply'

According to Harris, working in roofing is common in her family. 

She wants to see the inquest include more training for workers, as well as better enforcement of safety protocol with regards to harnesses.

She's hopeful the inquest will make a difference for roofing workers, but said it's difficult to hear that her brother's death will be "reopened and talked about again."

"It really did break up my family a lot, and created tension between us and it did really hurt my parents deeply," she said.

Harris remembers the small moments between her and Maukonen, like their frequent car rides and chatting over their own pizza party.

Maukonen was looking into becoming a mechanic. He would have turned 22 in 2019.

"Me and my family miss him so much and so dearly," said Harris. "We wish we could just push back time and enjoy those moments we had with him, but sometimes that's not how life goes."