City shuts down to mourn

The City of Fernie shut down its operations Friday to give staff time to grieve the deaths of co-workers following an ammonia leak at the local ice rink.

The BC Coroners Service said the men who died were Wayne Hornquist, 59, and Lloyd Smith, 52, both of Fernie; and Jason Podloski, 46, of Turner Valley, Alta.

The city has said two of the men worked for the municipality. A spokesman for the parent company of refrigeration business CIMCO confirmed the third man worked for their Calgary branch.

B.C. Emergency Health Services said Smith was a part-time paramedic who was off-duty and working at his other job with the municipality when he died Tuesday.

Smith was also a senior instructor with the Alberta Association of Recreation Facility Personnel and its incoming board president, executive director Stuart Ray said Friday.

Ray called his friend of 10 years a "gentle soul" who was generous with his time.

"He's a very intellectual individual. He's very quiet and it takes a long time to get to know the man," Ray said.

"But once you do, you find out that he's a bit of a joker. He always has a kind word to say."

Ray said Smith was adventurous and flew planes as a hobby.

Smith leaves behind a 12-year-old son, Ray said.

He was from High River, Alta., and lived in nearby Okotoks before taking the job three hours away in Fernie.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper's wife, Laureen, tweeted Thursday night that Smith was a childhood friend who taught her how to drive a Zamboni at a rink in High River.

Health Minister Adrian Dix issued a statement saying Smith started his career as a B.C. paramedic in 1996 and was a friend and mentor to many.

"As we wait for more information about this heartbreaking event to be gathered by the BC Coroners Service, WorkSafeBC, Technical Safety BC and the RCMP, we encourage people to take care of themselves and each other, and thank them for the work that they do for patients and communities," Dix said.

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