2 confirmed dead after Burns Lake sawmill explosion
Published Monday, January 23, 2012 6:11PM PST
The bodies of two people have now been uncovered at the site of a sawmill explosion in Burns Lake, B.C.
The BC Coroners Service says that the remains of one person were found in the wreckage of the Babine Forest Products mill were found Monday, while another body was discovered near the periphery of the site a day earlier.
The discoveries mark the tragic end to a search for two missing workers who were inside the mill when it exploded and burst into flames on Friday night. The identities of the bodies have not been confirmed by the coroner, but workers Carl Charlie and Robert Luggi Jr. are both missing and presumed dead.
Another 19 workers were injured in the blast, including John Wiebe, who suffered second and third-degree burns when the structure combusted.
"I saw a big wall of flame -- just ‘boom.' Next thing I know we were picking ourselves up off the wall," Wiebe told CTV News.
He and a co-worker tried to make their way to an exit, but saw the roof was caved in, blocking the doorway.
"We went down to the second floor, there were stairs and then we jumped out," Wiebe said.
Investigators still haven't determined what caused the blast, but some mill employees reported smelling gas earlier on Friday. Wiebe didn't notice that, but he did smell something smouldering when he reported for work.
"Robert Luggi said on the radio he saw this place smouldering so he was just putting it out. So I paid no attention to it," Wiebe said.
The coroner and police say that the fire left a challenging and dangerous wreck to search.
"You'll be standing in one safe area and all of sudden a fire will ignite in another area, so it is extremely unsafe," RCMP Const. Lesley Smith said.
Eleven of those injured and burned in the explosion are still being treated in hospitals around B.C. and Alberta.
Eight people have been treated and released, while four remain in hospital in Vancouver, one in Victoria, three in Prince George, one in Vanderhoof and two in Edmonton.
The mill is located about 220 kilometres west of Prince George and employs about 250 people. The facility is jointly owned by Burns Lake Native Development Corp. and Hampton Affiliates, a forest-products company based in Portland, Oregon.
Damage estimates on the facility have been coming in as high as $100 million, dampening hopes that the mill will be rebuilt.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark has vowed support for the tiny B.C. community, but it's unclear what form of support she means.
"We are going to have to work together to make sure that this community gets through this," she told a crowd of grief-stricken residents on Sunday.
Meanwhile, investigators are still speaking with workers who were in the plant at the time of the blast. The RCMP has said the investigation will take some time.
With files from CTV British Columbia's Maria Weisgarber and CTV.ca