From the Toronto Sun--Brampton is just northwest of Toronto.
Tonnes of food crush worker
Warehouse pals search freezer in vain for man
By JONATHAN JENKINS, TORONTO SUN
BRAMPTON -- Distraught refrigerator warehouse workers dug frantically by hand through a mountain of frozen food after tons collapsed on one of their colleagues yesterday. "We're all brothers here," Robert Keane, 33, said as he took a break in the sun to warm up from the -27 C freezer. "The mood is very driven. We're working our tails off. We need to find him and I don't think one of us wants to stop until we do."
But the news Keane and his friends didn't want to hear came from fire officials 7 1/2 hours after the food-laden racks at the VersaCold warehouse collapsed. The buckled structure was simply too unsafe for the search to continue and there was no chance of finding the victim alive.
"We don't know where he is. He's under the pile," said assistant division Chief Gary Jarrett with Brampton Fire. "We just weren't willing to put other lives at risk."
Jarrett said the major concern now is preventing the building from collapsing further.
"We'll have to bring in some heavy equipment and pull it apart like an onion," he said.
The victim, whose name was not released, was working alone restacking pallets of frozen food at 6:30 a.m., just 30 minutes before his night shift ended.
Somehow, five of the 15-metre high racks holding thousands of 800-kilo pallets began to topple over, taking each other out in a domino effect, causing the ceiling to collapse and one wall to bulge out.
"It looks like a plane went through it," said Mark, who didn't give his last name.
With no room to bring in machinery, rescuers had to shift the tonnes of frozen pancakes and waffles, juice concentrate, corn and peas by hand in the frigid cold, with the floor coated in three centimetres of ice and the sprinklers going off.
Keane said he noticed the damage to the freezer, just one of several in the sprawling facility at 107 Walker Place, near Airport Rd. and Steeles Ave., as soon as he arrived for work.
"People in all parts of the building (said) it was almost like a vacuum effect," he said. "When the roof buckled, I guess, a large rush of air just came blasting out the freezer doors.
Rescue teams formed a human chain inside the freezer to move the mound of cartons, dumping them off the loading docks where two backhoes scooped the thawing food into dumpsters.
But activity stopped about 2 p.m. when fire officials gathered the workers and broke the bad news -- with no hope of finding the man alive, it was just too dangerous to keep working.
The employees then slowly drifted home, too exhausted and upset to make any comment.
"I'd like to commend all the employees who work here and the police, fire and ambulance," Peel police Const. Wendy Sims said. "The night shift stayed, people who were on days off came in, and people who were working the afternoon shift came in early."
The 57-year-old victim, married with children, was well-regarded by his co-workers, she said.
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08-25-2003, 12:49 AM #1
- Join Date
- Sep 2002
Building Collapse Kills One--Brampton Ontario Canada
08-26-2003, 11:51 PM #2
- Join Date
- May 2002
- Now in Victoria, BC. I'm from beautiful Jasper Alberta in the heart of the Can. Rockies - will always be an Albertan at heart!
How tragic. My condolences to his co-workers, friends and family.September 11th - Never Forget
I respect firefighters and emergency workers worldwide. Thank you for what you do.
IACOJ CRUSTY CONVENTION CHAIR
RAY WAS HERE FIRST
08-28-2003, 04:03 PM #3
- Join Date
- Sep 2002
Victim's Body Recovered
From the Toronto Star.
Worker's body found in rubble
Family keeps vigil during search `Unbelievable chaos,' mayor says
Relatives of a man buried under a huge pile of frozen food that collapsed on him Saturday at a Brampton warehouse kept a vigil through the night until firefighters recovered his body at 4:36 a.m. yesterday.
Seven family members, but not the man's wife and two grown sons, waited in the boardroom of the VersaCold warehouse, along with company CEO Brent Sugden, who flew in from Vancouver, and Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell.
The warehouse is on Walker Dr., northwest of Airport Rd. and Highway 407.
The grim vigil ended when the news reached them that the body of Virgilio Bernardino, 57, had been finally located after a recovery operation that lasted nearly four days.
"It was a scene of unbelievable chaos and tragedy ó heartbreaking for the family, the rescue workers, the man's co-workers who stayed at the scene prepared to immediately assist in the recovery, and all of us there," Fennell said yesterday.
She said Bernardino's wife Lydia and sons, aged 22 and 25, remained at home until notified by authorities. Fennell said Bernardino was working an overtime shift Saturday at 6:45 a.m. when the accident occurred.
He was with a co-worker who, before leaving for a break had turned around to ask Bernardino if he was coming along too, Fennell said.
She said the victim had replied, "I'll be right there" and was checking something when the co-worker heard the rumble of the racks collapsing.
As the search continued for Bernardino, a heavy rainstorm had made the already dangerous operation more deadly as tonnes of frozen foods and warehouse debris were peeled slowly away so firefighters and other emergency workers could pick their way on hands and knees to locate the body.
It was the most dangerous recovery operation ever undertaken by the Brampton Fire and Emergency Service, said Gary Jarrett, assistant division chief of the Brampton fire service.
"The victim was located almost exactly where the Peel police search dog told us he would be, closer to the west wall of freezer No. 4, near the fifth aisle about two-thirds of the way in from the huge (hole) in the wall caused by the collapsing shelving and roof," Jarrett said.
Peel coroner Dr. Warren Allin pronounced the victim dead at the scene. A post-mortem was to be done yesterday.
Authorities expect there will be an inquest.
Bernardino's sister, speaking for the victim's wife, said they are stunned by the tragedy.
"We are doing the best we can to cope with it. It is very hard on all of us," said the sister, who declined to give her name.
The labour ministry, Peel police and the coroner's office, along with a platoon of engineers and structural experts were on the scene yesterday to begin a probe into the reason the structural steel racking and the roof failed and collapsed.
A labour ministry official said the VersaCold operation is closed down for the time being. With files by Mike Funston
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