WATCH: A worker at a Suncor oilsands site north of Fort McMurray was attacked by a bear in the middle of the afternoon. It all happened as her horrified co-workers tried to stop the attack. Francis Silvaggio reports.
EDMONTON – Global News has learned the Suncor employee who was killed by a black bear in northern Alberta on Wednesday was Fort McMurray resident Lorna Weafer.
The Suncor instrument technician reportedly came face to face with the bear shortly after coming out of a washroom at the company’s oil sands base plant, located about 25 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.
Global News has been told fellow employees witnessed the attack and tried to stop it, but were unable to. They called RCMP around 2:15 p.m. Wednesday; Weafer was later pronounced dead at the scene.
The 36-year-old was born in Ireland, and emigrated to Canada with her parents more than 30 years ago, according to The Irish Independent.
Dublin actor Alan O’Neill, a relative of Weafer’s, sent out the following message on Twitter regarding her death on Thursday:
Her family has sent out a statement, which reads, in part:
“Lorna’s warmth and compassion knew no bounds. She had a busy full life, loved her family and her dog.
She absolutely adored children and had volunteered as a Big Sister.
Lorna was a warm, conscientious person and she made fast friends.
Although Lorna had only been working with Suncor as an instrumentation tech since October, she was extremely well-liked and had many friends at the company…
She had been talking about going back to study and become a psychologist because she loved helping people – she’d have helped anyone. And she often did.
She will be greatly missed by her immediate and extended family, and her many, many friends.
On behalf of our family we’d like to recognize the co-workers who tried to help Lorna. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We understand you are grieving as well and we are sending you our best regards.
Due to the sudden and tragic circumstances of Lorna’s death, we are asking for privacy while we grieve.
Suncor’s executive vice president Mark Little said the company is shocked “by this very unusual incident.”
“There are no words to express the tragedy of this situation. Our thoughts and prayers go out to family, friends and co-workers.”
“We don’t know why this happened and that’s why it’s so important we conduct a complete, thorough investigation,” Suncor spokesperson Sneh Seetal after the event on Wednesday.
According to Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), the bear, which was later killed by officers, was male and of “above-average size.”
READ MORE: How common are black bear attacks? And what should you do if you ever encounter a bear in the wilderness?
“There are a lot of people on these sites, so we had to take the safety of those people into account,” explained Cpl. George Cameron of Ft. McMurray RCMP. “That’s probably the main reason why the bear was shot. We didn’t want this unfortunate incident to happen again.”
The wildlife officer investigating this case says there was no open food in the area at the time, and the garbage bin was sealed.
It’s believed the attack was of a predatory nature.
Traps have since been set up in the area, and another bear has been caught.
“Part of the wildlife training that we do offer for our employees and that employees partake in does speak to alerting any sightings through to people on site so appropriate steps can be taken,” Seetal said.
She said as a result of the attack, “we are reminding people not just at our site, but in the broader community, to be especially vigilant in dealing with wildlife.”
“We do know that the bears are coming out of hibernation now and so, from an Occupational Health and Safety Perspective, we want to ensure that all workers — whether at this site or any other — are well trained to know how to handle these situations should they occur, ” said Barrie Harrison of OHS.
OHS says it will work with Suncor to see if anything could have been done to avoid this attack.
It adds that it can’t recall any other time there’s been a wildlife attack on a job site in the province.
With files from Kendra Slugoski and Shannon Greer Global News, and The Canadian Press