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B.C. Coroner says body of sawmill worker discovered on the edge of fire wreckage Read it on Global News: Global News |


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BURNS LAKE, B.C. - Amid the blackened and bent steel girders, a short distance from what might have been an escape from the burning wreckage of a Burns Lake, B.C., sawmill, the remains of one of two missing workers have been found.

While investigators have not been allowed to search what is left of the still-smoldering site, Barbara McLintock, with the BC Coroners Service, said the department's disaster response unit was given some indication of where a body might be.

"That proved to be correct, something had been seen by one of the firefighters," she said. "They were lucky in that it was quite near the periphery of the scene and it was an area that was made to be safe."

It's snowing off and on in the area and it's cold. McLintock said conditions are poor for such an investigation.

"It's such a bad scene. Basically they were working under tarps in this twisted little area. But it did work out."

Because of the devastating nature of the fire and explosion that tore through the Babine Forest Products mill Friday night, the coroners' service said the remains could not yet be identified.

Relatives have identified the two missing men as Carl Charlie and Robert Luggi. Both are aboriginal and in their 40s and both have children.

RCMP media spokeswoman Cost. Lesley Smith said spot fires are still flaring on the site and its far too dangerous to enter the area to look for the second body.

Two structural engineers are looking over the wreckage to determine if and when investigators can go into the area, Smith said.

"I think its going to be a step by-step process. They're going to be identifying a certain area of the site that will be deemed safe and then go from there."

Smith said police have information from other workers about who was seen last, where and what they were doing before the blast.

"But unfortunately, when you're involved in an explosion and fire, either the explosion encompassed certain areas or people were running out of the building. It's unknown where we're going to locate any remains."

McLintock said the coroners' unit has been working with RCMP and investigators trying to pinpoint the last movements of the second missing person to determine where he might be found.

"They've got some idea," she said. "The next thing they're working on is ... how difficult is it to make those areas where they want to go in next safe."

More than two dozen workers were on shift when many of them reported a bright flash, a massive explosion and then a fire Friday evening. Some reported having smelled gas beforehand.

Of the 19 who were rushed to hospital, 11 remain in care at four different hospitals in B.C. and one in Edmonton.

Two of those taken to Vancouver General Hospital are in critical condition. Many of the workers had severe burns, some had broken bones and concussions.

Steve Hunt, Western Canada director for the United Steelworkers union, which represents workers at the mill, said the loss of life, the life-altering injuries and loss of the mill are devastating to community.

"Everybody knows one another," he said. "What does the community do, how do they recover? It's just a terrible set of circumstances."

Hunt said the mill, a joint venture between a consortium of area aboriginal bands and a Portland-based forestry company, has been a success story and has helped people change their lives.

"People are getting hit emotionally that nobody ever is prepared to handle. In this case, there are three, four, probably 10 issues that will affect people that we can't think about right now."

The union will be taking part in the incident investigation that now involves the RCMP, The BC Coroners Service, Worksafe BC, the BC Fire Commissioners Office and the B.C. Safety Authority.

Hunt said they have no idea what might have caused the blast and resulting fire other than to guess.

"And to guess in a situation like this is really dangerous," he said. "In our experience, nobody that I've talked to has ever seen a mill explode. We just don't know right now."

As for safety and labour relations issues, Hunt said the company had not been a concern in the past.

The union has a whole team of people dispatched to Burns Lake to help the workers and their families cope with so many losses.

McLintock said the coroners' disaster response unit has special skills in conducting location investigations and recovery of bodies in especially difficult circumstances.

Read it on Global News: Global News | B.C. Coroner says body of sawmill worker discovered on the edge of fire wreckage

Just to think, I was going to be up in the summer working at that place... I know a guy who got off 3 hours before it blew up. It's pretty bad up there right now.

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