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Two dead after Prince George mill explosion

PRINCE GEORGE (NEWS1130) – The devastating explosion and fire at a Prince George sawmill Monday night has taken a second life.

Barb McLintock with the BC Coroner’s Service says Glen Roche, a worker who was airlifted to Alberta for treatment after the massive blast at the Lakeland Mills sawmill, passed away last night.

“One of the workers, who had been transfered for specialized care to the hospital in Edmonton, [has] unfortunately, despite their best medical efforts, not made it,” she explains.

“Four [people were] medivac’d out. Two went to Vancouver General [Hospital], one to Royal Jubilee [Hospital] in Victoria, and the fourth fellow to Edmonton,” McLintock adds.

The first worker to pass away, 43-year-old mill shift supervisor Allan Little, died on yesterday morning.

Twenty-four workers were hurt when the blast erupted Monday night.  Fire crews say some workers were blown out of the building while others suffered serious burns as walls collapsed and floors buckled. The ensuing fire could be seen for miles.

Greg Stewart with the Sinclair Group, which owns the mill, tells us it’s too early to talk about the future of the operation right now. “We’re focused on the employees and their families and what we can do to help them through this difficult situation.”

Dust from cutting mountain pine beetle-infested timber has been suggested as a cause of the explosion, but Stewart says he’ll wait for an investigation.

“We’ve been processing it for a number of years — nine years — and we have not had an incident,” he notes. “To draw the conclusion that the mountain pine beetle is the cause of this incident, I would like to reserve that judgment until the investigation has been completed.”

The BC government has ordered all provincial sawmills to undergo a safety check.

The Lakeland Mills sawmill explosion follows a blast in January at the Babine Forests Products mill in Burns Lake, north of Prince George, which killed two workers and injured 19 others. WorkSafeBC says it is too early to say which caused either blast.

Grief counsellors have been brought in for the victims and their families.

City councillor Garth Frizzell says just about everyone is walking around in disbelief.  “They talk about how there’s six degrees of separation between people on the planet. Well, we talk about how up here it’s two degrees. Everybody is connected to everyone else.”