Lynne Rozenboom knows the exact time her world changed.
“At approximately 1 p.m. on May 13, 2008,” she told a crowd of about 50 at the Day of Mourning ceremony in Prince George on Tuesday, “my life changed, my children, my grandchildren, parents, friends.”
That was when she was told her husband Dirk, a worker with BC Hydro, had been killed in a helicopter crash in Cranbrook.
“It was a day like any other one,” she said. “He ate his oatmeal for breakfast, kissed me goodbye. It was Tuesday, so he would be doing what had become a routine job, helicopter line patrols.”
That was almost seven years ago, and, she said, “the trauma still goes on.
“In our hearts, in our minds, we still mourn him.”
Dirk Rozenboom was one of four people killed in the crash, along with the pilot, another BC Hydro worker and a Kenyan exchange student on the ground.
Lynne Rozenboom says there were things she had to learn that she had never thought she would.
“I had to learn to drive the John Deer tractor he had bought just a few weeks earlier. His brothers taught me how to drive it so I could mow the lawn.”
She also found herself having to explain that tragedy was not the norm.
“I had to explain to my grandson that not every helicopter he saw in the sky was going to crash.”
More importantly, she says, she learned lessons about living.
“Only because we love someone so deeply can we grieve so deeply. We need to be patient and kind with each other.
“We have to share our time, our touch, our tears.”
She now works with the WorkSafeBC Peer Support Group.
“We provide counselling which is safe, empathetic and confidential.
“We’ve walked the walk.”
Speaking before Rozenboom, United Steelworkers Wood Council president Bob Matters said much had changed since a meeting he attended 20 years ago.
“Workmen dying was accepted as a fact of life in the forest industry,” he said. “We met with the presidents of the major forest companies about what could be done, and their basic message was, ‘We can’t control what happens on the ground from our offices in vancouver.’
“Things have changed, but there’s still a helluva long way to go.”
In 2014, 173 B.C. workers died, with many of those resulted to asbestos exposure many years ago. Bruce Clarke, the prevention manager for WorkSafeBC in Prince George, said that will continue to influence future statistics on work-related deaths.
“Because it can take so long for the diseases to appear, the numbers are likely to remain high.”
He said it was important to remember the number of work-related deaths didn’t even show the true impact.
“Those numbers represent people who were loved by others. Their deaths have an impact on so many more.”
He said ceremonies like the Day of Mourning were not just a time to remember those who had died.
“It’s an opportunity to talk to others about ways to make the workplace safer. We all have a role to play in that.”
North Central Labour Council vice-president Don Iwaskow, the emcee for the ceremony, concluded the event with something for everyone to remember when it came to making the workplace safer.
“Remember, there is always someone that wants you to come safe.”