Inquest into death of mill employee begins

Coroner’s inquest into death of Brad Haslam, 18, who died on the midnight shift at Tolko’s Lavington sawmill June 15, 2012

Her hockey-playing, cheese-loving, energetic, determined, independent son impacted many lives in his 18 years.

It’s for those people, his mom, dad, older sister and younger brother, grandparents and countless friends that Denise Wilson wants answers for Bradley Haslam.

Wilson was the first witness at the coroner’s inquest into the death of Haslam, 18, her middle child, who died on the midnight shift at Tolko’s Lavington sawmill June 15, 2012, of cardiac arrest.

“I believe there should have been preventative measures in place before my son’s life was taken,” said Wilson, holding back tears, as she testified Monday morning at the Vernon Courthouse.

“My son was not irresponsible, would not take shortcuts and was not in a place he shouldn’t have been. He’d do an efficient job and I believe my son was where he was told to be.”

A seven-person jury – six men, one woman – and presiding coroner T.E. Chico Newell are scheduled to hear testimony from 21 witnesses this week into the death of Haslam.

Newell explained to the jury that there are three main functions for a coroner’s inquest: to ascertain publicly the facts relating to a death and how, when where and by what means the deceased came to his/her death; to make recommendations about any matter arising out of the inquest with the aim of preventing future loss of life; and satisfy the community that the circumstances surrounding the death will not be overlooked, concealed or ignored.

B.C. Ambulance Service employees Alana Hicik and Lisa Olszewski told the inquest they were the first medical personnel to arrive on the scene.

They received a call at their Lumby station shortly before 2 a.m. about a cardiac arrest at the mill and arrived at Tolko at 2:10 a.m.

“It was a Code 3 emergency response so I had the lights and siren operating,” said Hicik, who drove the ambulance.

The pair were met at the mill by workers who directed them to the area Haslam was in, the No. 3 chipper, an area he had worked in before.

Both women said Haslam had been extricated from an area between a belt and a roller, and that first aid procedures had already commenced prior to their arrival. Somebody was performing CPR on the injured man, and a defibrillator had been hooked up to him.

“We took over to determine if the patient was in cardiac arrest and he was,” said Hicik. “There were no vital signs. He wasn’t breathing and there was no pulse.”

The ambulance crew begun chest compressions, started ventilating Haslam and hooked up their own defibrillator to his chest. No heart rhythm was detected.

Asked if she noticed any distinct injuries on Haslam, Hicik said, “There were no obvious deformities on the initial assessment, and no open cuts, but during resuscitation efforts…I noticed bruising around his neck area.”

Olszewski testified she noticed bruising around the collarbone area.

The women phoned Vernon Jubilee Hospital triage, as part of its protocol, and left the sawmill 12 minutes after they arrived on-scene, transporting Haslam. They arrived at VJH at 2:42 a.m.

An emergency department physician met the women in the trauma bay and took over. It was the doctor who pronounced Haslam dead.

Inquest counsel John Orr told the jury that no alcohol or blood were found in Haslam’s system.

Haslam had worked at the mill “for several months,” said Orr. He asked Wilson if her son had ever talked a lot about his job or about on the job training.

“No, he didn’t,” she said. “He didn’t talk about training and didn’t raise any concerns.”

Legal counsel for Tolko, the United Steelworkers union and WorkSafe B.C. are also taking part in the inquest.

Witness testimony is slated to wrap up Thursday and jury deliberations are scheduled to begin immediately after.