Man killed at Crofton mill

UPDATE: The BC Coroners Service announced Thursday afternoon that the man killed at Crofton mill was Perry Vernon Thomas, 66, of Qualicum Beach. Thomas delivered a load of chips to Catalyst Paper mill at about 5 p.m. on Dec. 9. When other workers couldn’t find him about a half hour later, they reported him missing as a search began. His body was recovered on Dec. 11 from one of the chip silos.

 

An investigation at the Catalyst Paper mill in Crofton continues after the body of a truck driver who went missing at the site on Tuesday was recovered on Wednesday.

WorkSafe BC has been at the mill since late Tuesday afternoon, when the man, who was making a delivery of wood chips to the site, was first reported missing.

"Our job is to determine the cause, what happened, why it happened, how it happened, and how to prevent it from happening in the future," said WorkSafe BC spokesperson Scott McCloy.

Assisting WorkSafe BC with the investigation were the RCMP and the BC Coroners Service. Preliminary investigations had suggested that the truck driver, an employee of Bobell Express making the delivery on behalf of Marpole Transport, had been caught on a conveyor belt and taken into a chip silo.

"Officers attended to the scene," said Cpl. Jon Stuart of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP.

"[They] determined that there was enough to support the belief that the driver had been taken by a conveyor belt, and carried into one of the storage silos," Stuart said Wednesday. "There is nothing to suggest a criminal act at this time."

Operations at the mill were shut down as the investigation went on.

"We are all saddened by this tragic accident," Catalyst President and CEO Joe Nemeth said. "We extend our heartfelt sympathies to his family and friends during this difficult time."

Delta-based Bobell Express voiced similar sentiments.

"It is with great sadness that we at Bobell Express report the tragic loss of a loyal and long-term fellow driver and friend," the company stated in a press release. "Our thoughts and sincerest condolences go out to his family, friends, and fellow co-workers. We would like to ask during this difficult time that the family’s privacy be respected to allow them the time and space to grieve their loss.

"Additionally we would like to express our sincere gratitude to Catalyst Paper, the RCMP, WorkSafe BC, and all the first responders, and our own crew and staff, whose exemplary service and professionalism through this heartrending incident cannot be overstated."

McCloy could not recall a similar incident occurring in more than 20 years working with WorkSafe BC. "It’s extremely rare, for good reason," he said.

There was no indication on Thursday how much time the investigation would take.

"They’ll be there as long as it takes them to gather evidence and have a sufficient explanation as to what has gone on."