Accident at Crofton mill kills one

A worker was killed at the Crofton pulp and paper mill on Wednesday night, Jan. 27.

A worker was killed at the Crofton pulp and paper mill on Wednesday night, Jan. 27.

“We are confirming that there has been a fatal incident at the Crofton mill. North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP’s General Investigation Section is working in conjunction with the Coroner’s office and WorkSafe BC and they are onsite,” said Cpl. Krista Hobday, the detachment’s media relations officer.

“The incident occurred at approximately 7 p.m. last evening. At approximately 11:50 p.m., police, fire, and ambulance personnel were alerted to an industrial accident near the entrance of the Catalyst Paper Mill in Crofton. The employee’s family has been notified. Cowichan Valley RCMP Victim Services have been offering their support to the family and those affected by this tragedy,” she said, offering, “on behalf of the RCMP, our condolences to the family and coworkers of the victim.”

Eduarda Hodgins, director, organization and development communications, for Catalyst Paper, said Thursday that the entire company shared the pain.

“Obviously, all of us at Catalyst are very deeply saddened by this. There isn’t a lot more we can say at this point. It’s a very tragic event for us at the company. All we know today is that an employee was fatally injured when an industrial vehicle rolled over last evening at the mill. At this point, we don’t have any more details. The Coroner, the RCMP and WorkSafeBC have attended the site and an investigation is underway.”

The mill, which employs about 650 workers, was shut down and will remain that way until further notice, Hodgins said.

She could not answer any specific questions about the incident, pending the coroner’s office completing its investigation.

“We can’t give out any details that might identify the victim. Out of respect for the worker and simply out of respect for the next of kin, we can’t release any information about that worker.”

Scott McCloy, director government, community and media relations at WorkSafe BC said, “Police initially responded to the incident and still have control of the site in which a Caterpillar tractor, which was pushing hog fuel on a pile, rolled down the pile and fatally injured the worker. That is our suspicion at this point.

“The scene is currently held by the RCMP and WorkSafeBC has so far been permitted to examine the tractor. The coroner is also involved. It’s suspected the rollover happened earlier in the evening but it was not discovered until late in the evening, about 11:45. That’s what we know at this point,” he said.

But, once the RCMP hands over jurisdiction for the site, WorkSafeBC will swing into its investigation.

“Our job is to find out, under the authority of the Workers’ Compensation Act, what happened, how it happened, why it happened and how it could be prevented from happening again in future,” McCloy said.

“Every death is a tragedy. For workers, for the family of the victim, for everybody involved it just is a difficult thing for a workplace to sustain. We recognize that and so we want to find answers as quickly as possible. We know the union does, we know the employer does, we know the workers do.

“I can’t give you a time frame on how long the investigation will last. It could be weeks, it could be months. It really depends on what we find and how complicated the investigation is. We are going as quickly as possible and as carefully as possible.

Hobday said that Victim Services can offer immediate and ongoing support in many ways.

“Obviously, they offer support initially. With the shock of being told that your family member is deceased, they kind of take the role of extended family until those people are able to be contacted and start showing up.

“Later, they offer any ongoing support. If you want to liaise with the investigator to find out what’s going on with the investigation, they are the in-between people for that,” Hobday said.

In general, they support victims of crime but can also be called out to workplaces.

“They are also called out in instances like this to be available for the workers at the mill because they will be affected as well,” Hobday said.

Both the company spokesperson and WorkSafeBC said they will be issuing updates as more information becomes available.