The Deadly Ammonia Leak at Fernie Memorial Arena – A First of Its Kind Hazard in Canada

It’s been over 24 hours since three Fernie Arena workers were found dead following a fatal ammonia leak in the arena.

Latest reports from the authorities reveal that the levels of ammonia leaked into the surroundings remained dangerously high for investigators from the RCMP to safely enter the arena.

Around 60 residents of this small British Columbian community were evacuated late Tuesday evening. The residents haven’t been allowed to return to their homes, still.

The authorities along with the police did manage to enter the arena late into Wednesday evening, but no details of the initial investigation were disclosed to the public.

Canada is home to 2,500 indoor ice rinks. More than half of these ice rinks use ammonia as a cooling agent.

These ice rinks are regulated by strict training standards and safety codes to ensure proper handling of the tons of ammonia used in the facilities.
The Fernie incident however, is being termed as Canada’s very first fatal leak.

Daniel Giguère who serves the federal Department of Natural Resources as a resident refrigeration and heat pump expert, said:

“Ammonia is something that we’ve used since the beginning of refrigeration in ice rinks. If we had that kind of issue, this would not be used.”

Giguère did not completely eliminate the possibility of accidents, but he made it clear that the Department of Natural Resources doesn’t have solid data on these events.

A watchdog Technical Safety BC report released last year pointed out that there have been a total of 50 refrigerant incidents reported during the time between 2007 and 2015.

Out of these 50, 40 of them occurred in ammonia-based systems. However, only 10 of the said ammonia incidents resulted in causing physical injuries to those present there.

As investigations go on, the community has come together to comfort those who lost their loved ones in the tragic incident.

“This is a tragic situation. Families and friends are grieving, and our hearts are with them,” said the joint statement issued by Labour Minister Harry Bains and Premier John Horgan.

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Meagan Kozlovs

About the Author: Meagan Kozlovs

Meagan Kozlovs is a reporter for Debate Report. She’s worked and interned at Global News Toronto  and CHECX. Megan is based in Toronto and covers issues affecting her city. In addition to her severe milk shake addiction, she’s a Netflix enthusiast, a red wine drinker, and a voracious reader.

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