KIMBERLEY—CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill joined about 4,000 mourners—including more than 1,000 uniformed ambulance paramedics, firefighters, police and coast guard officers from across Canada—for today’s memorial service honouring two paramedics who died at the Sullivan mine earlier this month.
The memorial service, and a parade, were held to honour fallen paramedics Kim Weitzel, 44, and Shawn Currier, 21 — and the two Sullivan mine workers they were trying to rescue, Teck Cominco contractor Douglas Erickson, 48, and company employee Robert Newcombe, 49.
The mourners jammed into the Kimberley Civic Centre at 525 Archibald Street in this small East Kootenay town for the afternoon service, which was organized by the BC Ambulance Service. CUPE 873 (Ambulance Paramedics of BC) president John Strohmaier addressed the crowd with a stirring speech about the daily risks that paramedics face in serving their communities.
“The fact that so many people have shown up here today is a testament not only to the devastating impact this tragedy has had on a local community,” said O’Neill.
“It also speaks to the outstanding solidarity among emergency workers across this country, and how highly our communities regard the work that they do. People are mourning here today, but there’s also a great deal of pride.”
CUPE 873 has set up a trust fund for the families of Weitzel and Currier. Those wishing to donate are asked to send guaranteed funds (i.e. money order deposits) to the Kimberley Paramedics Memorial Trust Fund, (Transit # 02560, Account # 5060074), Royal Bank of Canada, 375 Wallinger Avenue, Kimberley, B.C. V1A 1Z3.
While O’Neill was in Kimberley for the paramedics memorial, CUPE BC secretary-treasurer Mark Hancock was attending another memorial on Vancouver Island—this one for CUPE 1858 member David Pringle, a member of CUPE BC’s Occupational Health and Safety Committee, who died suddenly at age 60 last week.
“The timing of these two memorials is sadly ironic, given that the OH&S committee has been pushing for provincial legislation and standards to better protect workers and prevent the kind of tragedies that happened at the Sullivan mine,” Hancock said.