In the wake of three deaths Tuesday, October 17th at the Fernie Memorial Arena, local officials are not indicating concern over the possibility of a similar incident happening at Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena in Invermere.
The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) manages the local arena. Kevin Paterson, environmental services manager, assured that it is a heavily monitored industry, with “stringent requirements” set by the BC Safety Authority.
“All arenas operate under those same requirements,” he told the Pioneer. “It’s not a case of lesser standards or greater standards.”
Mr. Paterson said he cannot speculate what happened in Fernie.
“Every hockey rink in Candada operates wtih ammonia. I’ve never heard of something as tragic as this,” Mr. Paterson remarked, adding that ammonia systems have been operating for decades and this is the first major accident he can recall.
The schedule for the local arena was not changed today, including time slots booked for D.T.S.S. hockey, and the J.A. Laird Hockey Skills Academy.
Emergency crews were called to the Fernie arena Tuesday afternoon around 12:30 p.m. for a reported ammonia leak. According to Fernie Fire Chief Ted Ruiter in a press conference Wednesday, they arrived on scene and found one person performing CPR on a victim. Firefighters did a sweep of the interior and found two more victims inside.
Fernie Mayor Mary Guilano said the names of the victims, two city workers and one contractor from Cimco Refrigeration, would not be released at the family’s requests.
Invemere Mayor Gerry Taft extended his heartfelt condolences to the families of those who passed away and to the entire community of Fernie.
“It’s a true tragedy,” he said. “It is definitely – when it comes to these types of facilities – everyone’s worst fear.”
Mayor Taft said he knows the staff at Eddie Mountain take ammonia very seriously, and there are detection systems in place that are there to ensure safety at the rink. He also confirmed there has been upgrades done to the local system that brought safety levels higher.
As part of the regular upkeep and maintenance of Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena, the condenser and chiller were replaced within the last two years, confirmed Mr. Paterson.
“Those are some significant upgrades within the last two years,” said Mr. Paterson. “There was nothing faulty with the old ones. They have a lifespan; they need to be upgraded and changed out (according to BC Safety Authority standards).”
The Columbia Valley Rockies are in the same hockey league as the Fernie Ghostriders, who call the Fernie Memorial Arena home. Rockies head coach Wade Dubielewicz reported that the KIJHL schedule will continue as before, with Fernie’s practices and games moved to the nearby Sparwood arena.
Mr. Dubielewicz contacted the Fernie team to offer any assistance they can provide.
“We have reached out to Fernie, and I know others have as well, for any way we can help,” stated Mr. Dubielewicz.
Premier John Horgan, Kootenay-Columbia MP Wayne Stetski, and Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok, all extended condolences to the families and the community of Fernie during this time.