Fernie Marks Two Year Anniversary of Arena Tragedy

City of Fernie Staff and Council gathered today to remember the three men lost on October 17, 2017 as a result of an ammonia leak at Fernie Memorial Arena.

“The loss of Wayne Hornquist, Lloyd Smith and Jason Podloski is felt every day in our organization,” said Interim CAO Don Schaffer. “It was important for all of us to close our facilities this morning and take time to remember them.”

In the two years since the tragic incident occurred, the City of Fernie has made significant changes to the operation of Fernie Memorial Arena. In fall 2018, the Arena was re-opened with a new refrigeration plant that is housed outside the main Arena building and uses a synthetic refrigerant instead of ammonia.

Following the incident, Technical Safety BC put in place additional Province-wide regulations for testing and monitoring arena refrigeration plants, resulting in a number of rinks in B.C. discovering problems that might have become dangerous. Today, they renewed their calls for extra vigilance around ammonia-based refrigeration systems, and the need for continued safety enhancements in the industry.

“The City of Fernie supports Technical Safety BC in their continued efforts to improve safety standards for arena refrigeration plants across the Province,” said Fernie Mayor Ange Qualizza. “What happened in Fernie was heartbreaking for all of us. We lost three men on October 17, 2017 and the work of Technical Safety BC will ensure the lessons learned in Fernie will prevent other communities from going through a similar tragedy.”

In August 2018, WorkSafe BC released its report and orders regarding the October 17, 2017, ammonia leak. The City of Fernie continues to work with WorkSafe BC, and remains committed to enhancing workplace safety.