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Williams Lake recognizes National Day of Mourning

Mill worker Puran Singh Bhogal (left) and United Steelworkers Local 1-425 first vice-present Dean Colville (centre) listen intently while Brenda Armstrong (right) shares the heartbreaking story of her son’s workplace death in 2013. - Monica Lamb-Yorski photo
Mill worker Puran Singh Bhogal (left) and United Steelworkers Local 1-425 first vice-present Dean Colville (centre) listen intently while Brenda Armstrong (right) shares the heartbreaking story of her son’s workplace death in 2013.
— image credit: Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

The mother of a 27-year-old Oliver man who died on the job in 2013 put a name and face to the statistics during the Day of Mourning ceremony in Williams Lake Monday.

Standing at the podium outside of city hall, Brenda Armstrong held up a memorial card depicting her son Sheldon Skolos’ photograph.

“In 2013, he was one of the ones that didn’t come home,” she faltered. “He is my oldest son. He had two sons, they were eight and four, and he should have come home that day.”

After his death, BC Coroners Service confirmed Sheldon died at a construction site in Oliver.

He was assisting a forklift operator in transporting construction materials when he was struck by a load of oriented strand boards.

“He worked beside his friend who was part of that accident and lives with that every day,” Armstrong said.

Of the 128 work-related deaths in B.C. in 2013, her son’s was one of them, and it affected everything that happened in her life this last year by 100 per cent, she said.

“There’s no way this should happen. People should come home from work and see their children and their spouses.”

Armstrong has three sons and said she never gave a lot of thought to work safety until her oldest son Sheldon’s death, but now feels strongly that work-related deaths must be prevented.

United Steelworkers Local 1-425 vice-president Dean Colville said he hopes in his lifetime he will be able stand up at the podium and celebrate that no one died at work.

“It’s pretty clear, whether we are government officials, companies, workers, we all share a common goal,” Colville said.

South Cariboo Area Labour Council president Linda Rowley said it’s a sad occasion each year to recognize enough hasn’t been done to prevent workplace injuries.

There are real people behind those statistics and very few prosecutions against companies, she continued.

“More people die at work than while fighting wars,” Salvation Army Capt. Ben Lippers said before offering a prayer. “This day gives us the opportunity to say thank you to all those people who have made a sacrifice so we can enjoy a high standard of living.”

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