Details are emerging of a severance pay dispute at the Nanaimo sawmill where a former employee allegedly used a shotgun to kill two workers and injure two others Wednesday.
Accused gunman Kevin Addison, 47, made a brief court appearance Thursday and was remanded in custody on two counts each of first-degree murder and attempted murder.
The motive in the attack remains unclear.
Addison was among 300 workers laid off by Western Forest Products in 2008. Some were rehired two years later, just before a deadline that would have forced the company to pay out millions in severance packages.
“There’s a lot of people out in the cold there waiting for their severance,” said Dean Vandale, another former employee. “Hopefully it wasn’t because of that.”
Heartbreaking notes left for victims
During Addison’s hearing in Nanaimo provincial court, a memorial of flowers and condolences grew outside the mill as victims’ friends and family gathered to pay respects.
The deceased have been identified as 53-year-old Fred McEachern and 61-year-old Michael Lunn, a forklift driver who was remembered as a joyful person who would play Santa Claus at Christmas.
"He was the best man I ever knew," Jason Gott said. "We miss him and we love him."
Among several notes left at the memorial was a heartbreaking farewell from Lunn’s daughter.
“Daddy, you really were the best father a daughter could ask for. Love, your princess,” it read.
McEachern was described as a respected supervisor who always had a smile on his face and loved coaching hockey.
“Fred was an unbelievable guy. On the bench, off the bench, in the dressing room. He was great with the kids, great with us," said Bob Orr, who worked and coached with the deceased.
“To learn about this yesterday, it’s senseless,” Orr said, choking back tears. “There’s a lot of us that are still trying to put it together right now but they’re both going to be missed a lot.”
Survivors feel fortunate to be alive
The shooting survivors were admitted to separate hospitals and one, Earl Kelly, remained in critical condition Thursday.
His family issued a hand-written statement thanking the community for their support.
“Earl is showing steady improvement & has the comfort of his family. He is feeling very fortunate and at the same time very saddened by the whole event,” it read.
Tony Sudar was shot in the face and taken to a Nanaimo hospital, but has since returned home.
His stepson said Sudar also feels very lucky, and his first words in hospital were about trying to help the other wounded.
Accused shooter described as a quiet man
Several questions about the tragedy remain unanswered, but Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan confirmed Thursday the suspect and victims knew each other.
“It’s not a random thing,” Ruttan said. “It’s still a terrible tragedy and we hope to find some answers why.”
Former Western Forest Products workers said Addison was a quiet man and a good employee.
His lawyer John Gustafson spoke briefly with the accused Thursday morning but said he could not comment on the details of the case. He asked the public not to rush to judgment.
“I just encourage everyone who’s taking any interest in this matter to wait until all the facts are in before making up their minds,” Gustafson said.
Court documents reveal in the past decade Addison lost his home to foreclosure and his marriage was falling apart.
He is scheduled to appear in court again on May 13.