By Charlie Senack, Barrhaven Independent
Human remains of four victims have been found at the site of Thursday’s explosion on Merivale Road, but hazards have prevented them from being collected.
Five people — four men and a woman — are missing and presumed dead after the incident unfolded at around 1:30 pm on Jan. 13. Three men were also taken to hospital from the Eastway Trucks site, where one later died. Another has been discharged, and one person remains in care.
On Sunday afternoon officials said the bodies of four people were “localized” but couldn’t be recovered. Entering the building is too dangerous and emergency personnel have only been able to search part of the site.
All agencies are carefully examining the scene and safeguards are in place to ensure it is safe to do so, said police. Evidence is being collected methodically to try to determine the cause of the incident.
Hazardous chemicals, structural integrity of the building and weather have impacted efforts in recent days. That has meant there is a continued risk of periodic flare-ups, presence of asbestos, chemicals and structural collapse, said officials.
“At this point, it’s our third day into the investigation,” said Ottawa police inspector Frank D’Aoust at a media briefing Sunday. “We’re meticulously removing debris, pieces of roof, walls, and certain pieces of equipment inside the building. Our efforts are hampered by by the cold and the risks on scene. “Oftentimes, we are removing debris and we’re finding other obstacles, which are dangerous for the investigators on site.”
Until the bodies are recovered and formally identified, their identities won’t be announced publicly.
Victims Identified By Family
Family members have already identified Rick Bastien as one of the deceased. The 57-year-old was one of the three taken to hospital, and worked as a Welder/Fabricator/Mechanic at Eastway Tank, according to his Facebook page.
“We had 10 wonderful years together and believed we had at least 30+ more to come,” his wife, Louise Martel, wrote on Facebook. “We had great plans. I love you and I always will, until we meet again.”
Friends and family have also identified Carleton Place resident Kayla Ferguson as one of the missing and presumed dead.
“Fly high my babe girl,” her mother Janet Ferguson wrote on Facebook. “We lost you but never forgotten. I’m so lost and numb inside. Your brother says he loves you too. I miss you so much my babe girl love you so fucking much. Until we meet again.”
Etienne Mabiala was also in the building and has not been located, according to family.
Also according to a Facebook post, Danny Beale, age 29, is believed to be one of the deceased. His twin sister wrote on the social media site: “We have been Together on earth for 29 beautiful years. You have been there for me through everything. I’ve always valued the time we have had together. I know I never really got to say goodbye, but I know in my heart that you knew how valuable you were to me and how much I appreciated you. I have no regrets and that is helping me so much with your sudden loss as I know we have always been true to communicate to each other how much we were special to each other since sharing a womb together.“
On Saturday, some of Beale’s family visited the explosion site to feel closer to their loved one, despite little confirmed answers. Flowers were left at the gate, alongside a photo of the 12-volt electrician holding a fish.
A representative from the Ottawa Coroners Office said the remains will be collected and identified when it’s safe to do so.
“It is unsafe to access them at this time,” said Dr. Louise McNaughton-Filion, the regional supervising coroner at the Ottawa Office. “As soon as it’s safe to do so, we will be recovering the remains and respectfully analysing them to determine what the cause of their death was, what the manner of their death was, and to identify them using forensic means.”
Work on the site could take weeks, along with the investigation into what caused the explosion and fire in the first place.
The Ottawa District Labor Council says they believe this is the worst workplace disaster in Ottawa since the 1966 collapse of the Heron Road bridge, which killed seven.
The investigation is being led by the Ottawa Police Arson Unit, and the provinces fire marshal will determine the cause of the explosion. Other agencies including the Ministry of the Labour, Training and Skills Development are also conducting their own parallel investigation.
“We realize there is always a feeling of urgency when a tragedy such as this occurs to find answers and locate all of the victims,” said Ottawa Police Inspector Frank D’Aoust. “The Ottawa Police Service and partners are moving as carefully and quickly as possible to provide meticulous investigative evidence and the utmost respect for the victims and their families. We will continue to keep the community updated on our recovery efforts and investigation.”
(Doreen Garvin cover Photo)