Support centre opened at Margaret Patrick Memorial Hall

Lake Babine Nation open their doors to the family and friends of missing and injured Babine Forest Products mill workers

Family members of missing Babine Forest Products employee Carl Charlie gather at the Margaret Patrick Memorial Hall.

Family, friends and concerned community members have been flooding into Lake Babine Nation’s Margaret Patrick Memorial Hall since news of the Babine Forest Products mill explosion.

Lake Babine Nation Chief Wilf Adam said to Lakes District News the Margaret Patrick Hall will remain open until things have calmed down.

“The hall has been open since 9 p.m. last night and we have grief councillors on hand. Our members are also helping each other get through this sad time,” Chief Adam said.

According to Chief Adam, once the fire stops burning at the mill, the search will continue for two missing men.

He said, “One of the employees is Stellat’en but lives at the Wet’suwet’en village and the other, Carl Charlie is from Lake Babine Nation.

“We do not want to say anything other than they are missing … they are just missing,” said Chief Adam.

Ben Charlie Jr. brother of Carl Charlie said to Lakes Distirct News that he is completely devastaed that this has happened.

“I am shocked. I am glad to hear that other employees made it out okay …. I am praying that we end up with some good news. I am just hanging in there for my folks.”

He also said a number of Lake Babine Nation members are in critical condition, with Kenny Michell being the most affected by the tragedy.

“Kenny is in the Vancouver Burn Unit and is due to have surgery at 1 p.m. today.”

Steven Dominic has been flown to the University Hospital of Alberta Burn Unit and Derek MacDonald is currently at the University Hospital in Prince George, but Chief Adam said he is due to be transported to the University Hospital of Alberta Burn Unit for further treatment.

“There was also number of injuries. I appreciate the community coming together. Some people have been here since yesterday providing meals and there is professional help and councillors coming in. I am thankful that, even with the limited health services that we have here in Burns Lake, that we received medical care so quickly. People did heroic acts to help.”

Chief Adam said he also appreciated the help that poured in from outlying communities. “I am happy that they came to help.”

John Bertacco, Lake Babine Nation councillor said his eldest son Blaine was working at the mill at the time of the explosion.

“He was working at the kiln, he is a forklift operator. When I heard about this I was shocked. I called my son and thankfully he answered his phone. All I could hear was commotion and then I lost contact. I phoned back and I could only hear chaos, people shouting and people screaming. My son brought three injured mill employees in his truck to the Lakes District Hospital and I helped him to cut their clothes off. We were told to cut their clothes off becuase the emergency department at the hospital wasn’t taking them unitl their clothes were removed … their hands were burnt …. their faces .. their shoulders and their clothing was burnt to their bodies. It was a blessing to see my son, but I am praying for all the other people.”

Kenny Michell arrived at the hospital in an ambulance while he was helping out. “Kenny was completely burnt … his face and hair … I couldn’t recognize him,” Bertacco said. “The second person they brought in was also severely burnt and he had a big patch over his left eye …. we didn’t recognize them,” he added, struggling to hold back tears.

Six grief councillors are on site at the Margaret Patrick Memorial Hall, as well as a number of level three first aid people.

“We will be here 24/7,” Chief Adam said.

Mayor Luke Strimbold said to Lakes District News that he is saddened by the events at Babine Forest Products. “It is a tragedy for our community, there is some very sad people and we need to focus our energy on providing support to these people. We need to slow things down over the next couple of days.”

Comments recieved on www.ldnews.net through Facebook: “Burns Lake produces the toughest people alive. Those that were injured will heal even stronger, those who are scared will become more fearless. As a community we will pull together and over come this tragedy and rebuild even better than before.”

“My heart aches for everyone involved. My prayers to the victims and their families.”

“Our prayers go out to all employees, families, and friends, and the local community and all the rescue and response teams in the area.”

“Prayers for everyone in Burns Lake, My heart is with you all, speedy recovery of those hurt and a prayer for the missing, such a sad time for all.”

Hundreds of comments from people have flooded in from all over, sendng in their support for the community.