As the vibrations and rustling of a fallen tree quieted against the forest floor, Petr Koncek heard chirping amid the hushed quiet.
He searched through the tangled branches near the top of the fallen tree he had just cut and saw the nest of surviving little birds calling out for their mom.
“So he picked up the nest and climbed another tree that he knew was safe from being cut, and gently placed the nest and its little birds into the branches of this other tree,” says his wife, Fleure Koncek. With 20 years experience in the logging industry, Petr loved what he did and he did it well, she says.
“He had the utmost respect for the forest. He just always made sure that the animals that were living there were protected the best that he could — every life was valuable.”
The 46-year-old Terrace man was killed in a logging accident down the Douglas Channel near Eagle Bay on April 18 after being struck by a falling tree.
According to WorkSafe BC, Petr was falling on the forest road right-of-way when he was struck by a tree felled by another faller. Fleure says it’s likely Petr didn’t see it coming.
“Safety and quality were his two priorities at work, so its very frustrating that he was so safe and this happened to him,” she says.
WorkSafe BC considers manual tree falling is one of the most dangerous professions in the province. Petr’s death was the second out of three harvesting fatalities recorded this year, according to BC Forest Safety Council.
Fleure knew the dangers of the profession all too well, and often asked Petr to stop because of the risk. But every morning he would leave, and every morning she would tell him to be safe, and that she loved him.
“That morning [on April 18], I did tell him that. I’m so grateful that I got to say those last words to him,” she says.
Petr was born in the Czech Republic and enlisted as a soldier in the Czech Republic Army. He then worked as a peacekeeper during the war in Yugoslavia for a year, where he experienced immense human tragedy, Fleure says.
Tired of war, Petr decided to pursue his dream of travelling in Canada and organized a trip to see the country’s vast mountain landscape.
He met Fleure during a trip to Haida Gwaii and settled in Terrace for Petr’s work.
Though he was passionate about forestry, family always came first for Petr. They have two children together, 20-year old Dominick and 12-year old Chloë. The family would often take their three dogs for a walk, or spend the day hiking and fishing together.
While Fleure describes herself as more of the family’s “drill sergeant,” Petr was the fun-loving father with a curious mind.
“He was a great dad. I could not have asked for a better husband or a better father for my children,” she says.
Coping with Petr’s death has been devastating for Fleure and her family. Their grieving was compounded when two of their dogs died within less than three weeks of the accident. The youngest dog, who had the closest relationship with Petr, passed away on the same day as his celebration of life.
“My kids are really completely devastated with this. The loss of those dogs was so hard, but the pain that I feel from losing Petr just overrides everything.”
Fleure feels she has to be strong for her children, but feels it’s important for them to see her grieve too.
“I think you need to show your kids that it’s okay to cry, and it’s okay to be mad. It’s okay to just talk about it. We can’t pretend like he’s not there and didn’t exist, that’s not giving him the justice he needs,” she says.
Seeing the support of her friends, family, and residents in the community has made a huge difference, she says. An online Facebook auction was set up to raise money for the Koncek family. They’ve also received cards, fruit baskets, flowers, and other gifts, with others jumping in to help Fleure with household chores, cooking, or just to keep her company.
“We are so grateful for everything that everyone has done for us, from our closest friends to pure strangers. I told them the words thank you do not justify how thankful we are,” she says.
“[Terrace] has become my home, there’s no more doubts in my mind. This is where I want to be.”
Learning to live without Petr, after 23 years of marriage, will be a slow process for herself and her two children, Fleure says. But she is glad to know his kind, gentle spirit made an impact wherever he went.
“People that I didn’t know Petr knew, all knew how he was. That’s when I realized he wasn’t just like this with us, he was like this with everyone he met. Nobody’s perfect, but he was pretty near perfect.”