Hundreds attend memorial for victims of Fernie ammonia leak
Hundreds of people gathered in Fernie, B.C. on Sunday to pay tribute to three men who died during an ammonia leak at a local hockey arena last month.
Lloyd Stewart Smith, 52, and 59-year-old Wayne Allan Hornquist, were making emergency repairs to the refrigeration unit at the Fernie Memorial Arena on Oct. 17 when they lost their lives.
Another maintenance worker, 46-year-old Jason Donovan Podloski from Turner Valley, Alta., also died at the rink.
While separate funerals have been held for the men, Sunday’s gathering was an opportunity for friends, family and strangers to heal and say a final goodbye.
“I think it was really important for everyone to have this opportunity and for the community to be invited in to spend time with the families of these three men,” said Liz Rhodes, a spokesperson for the city.
Mourners shared songs, poetry, prayers and their memories of the victims at the gathering.
Each of the men’s families also had a chance to speak.
“Jason, you were taken so tragically. The pain is tremendous. You will be so missed. We love you to the moon and back,” said one of Podloski’s family members.
One of Hornquist’s relatives remembered him as “a great man whose values and actions made us all better people by just being friends.”
“We realize that the man that we knew as our little brother was many different things to many different people and the kind words that have come out since then have really sustained us,” said Karen Smith-Myles, Lloyd Smith’s sister.
It’s still unclear how the deadly malfunction in the rink’s refrigeration system occurred.
WorkSafeBC’s investigation into the incident could take months to reveal any answers.
Members of the community say they will spend that time trying to keep the memories of the victims alive.
“It was great to see so many people here and celebrating these men,” Rhodes said. “I think in a small community like this, this really touched really all of us in some way or another, so to have this opportunity was really special.”
With files from CTV Vancouver’s Breanna Karstens-Smith and CTV Calgary