By Charlie Senack, Barrhaven Independent
Over 24 hours after an explosion rocked Merivale Road leaving one dead and another five missing, there are still many unanswered questions.
Those missing are presumed to be dead, as various investigative teams try to piece together what happened at the industrial site on Thursday afternoon. Police say four men and a woman were in the building at the time, and have not been accounted for.
They have also confirmed that one person has died, but have not officially released any names.
Friends and family however have identified Rick Bastien, aged 57, as the deceased.
The Luskville, Quebec resident worked as a Welder/Fabricator/Mechanic at Eastway Tank, according to his Facebook page. He passed away after being transported to hospital.
Bastien’s wife, Louise Martel wrote on Facebook: We had 10 wonderful years together and believed we had at least 30+ more to come. We had great plans. I love you and I always will, until we meet again.”
His son, Josh Bastien, also shared the news on Facebook, saying he is “overwhelmed with emotions”, and to not “waste time away. Our time dancing on this Earth is just a short while.”
“Sadly, I found out after work that my father Rick Bastien lost his life in this horrible tragedy in Ottawa, along with several others I worked with for a few years,” Josh Bastien shared on the social media site. “As I sit here and think of all the things he said to me, all the things we did I have so much regret there wasn’t more.”
Rick Bastien’s Nephew, Sebastien Villeneuve, also commented: “RIP my uncle Rick Bastien as they always say the best part first, watch over the family like you did so good on earth!! Have a safe trip Rick.”
Explosion Heard For Miles
It was around 1:30 pm on Jan. 13, when many heard a loud bang in the city’s west end. Ottawa Fire said they received various calls reporting an explosion had gone off near Bongard Ave, and Merivale Road. Streets in the area were closed for hours as fire crews put out the blaze which burned into the night. Smoke could be seen through most of Ottawa and 50 foot flames were reported. Shortly after crews arrived, part of the roof collapsed and walls caved in.
Multiple hazards nearby made the job even more difficult, with large propane tanks just feet away, and overhead electrical wires. Because of the danger, water was poured onto the blaze from a distance, and firefighters were unable to enter the building. It was finally under control by 6:00 pm. Merivale road opened about an hour and a half later.
To stop contamination, water was being sucked up and hay bales were used as barriers in nearby ditches. Air quality levels were also deemed to be safe, meaning nearby homes and businesses didn’t need to evacuate.
The incident took place at Eastway Tank Pump & Meter Ltd., a manufacturer for custom tank trucks. The family-owned business first opened its doors in 1968.
In a statement sent to various media organizations, president and chief executive officer Neil Greene said they are cooperating with authorities to find out how this tragedy occurred.
“I am completely devastated,” he wrote. “To the families of our lost colleague and to all our employees, please know that Eastway Tank will be there for you without fail in the weeks and months ahead. My deepest condolences to all of you.”
It’s not the first time a dangerous incident occurred at the address. According to the Ottawa Citizen, seven men “ran for their lives” after trying to extinguish a fire at Eastway Tanks in August 1971. A fuel truck which was being repaired exploded minutes later, requiring six fire extinguishers to be used to put it out. No one was injured in the incident, but windows were blown out, leaving $100,000 in damages.
Investigation into what caused one of the city’s worst industrial disasters could take a while to complete, with no clear timelines being given. It’s being led by the Ottawa Police Arson Unit. It’s unclear if authorities believe the cause is deliberate, and for now they aren’t taking any questions. The provinces fire marshal will determine the cause of the fire and explosion. The Ministry of Labor will conduct a parallel investigation.
(Cover photo shared on Facebook by Kyle Ewing).