Hundreds of mourners come out in the cold to say goodbye to Fernie leak victims

Community memorial service held for three men killed in Fernie
Hundreds gather in Fernie to honour the lives of the three men killed by an ammonia leak while working inside the Fernie Memorial Arena last month. Kristen Robinson reports.

With snow on the ground, hundreds of mourners turned out to the soccer fields of Fernie Secondary School on Sunday to say goodbye to Wayne Hornquist, Lloyd Smith and Jason Podolski, three men who died after an ammonia leak at the city’s Memorial Arena.

The memorial took place in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, and was organized around a bonfire to celebrate the lives of the three men killed in the leak on Oct. 17.

Coverage of ammonia leak in Fernie:

As people arrived at the service, they were asked to take a stone and “write a wish, thought or prayer.”

They could take a stone as a memory, or they could leave one with a message for the victims’ families. The stones were to be given to the families so that they could be placed in their gardens.

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A guitarist sang and played songs such as Coldplay’s “The Scientist” as people gathered. The Junior B Fernie Ghostriders hockey team showed up in their jerseys.

People hugged each other amid the cold.

READ MORE: 3 victims in Fernie arena ammonia leak identified

There were picture tributes to the victims outside the school.

Smith, the director of leisure services and a respected maintenance instructor, looked happy in a photo that showed him smiling at the finish line of the Scotiabank Marathon in Calgary.

Podloski smiled in facepaint in another picture.

As the service began, a speaker on a stage asked people to “remember this day as a time of sharing, warmth and compassion.”

She called on Rev. Andrea Brennan of Christ Church Anglican and Tiffany McNaughton of Knox United Church to share a “unity prayer.”

“Gather us in, the lost and the lonely, the broken and breaking, the tired and the aching who long for the nourishment found in this place,” Brennan recited.

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“Gather us in, the done and the doubting, the wishing and wondering, the puzzled and pondering, who long for the company found in this place,” McNaughton read.

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They were followed on the stage by the Fernie Community Choir, who sang a requiem, a musical remembrance.

With snow-capped peaks behind them, they sang “Mother Mary Full of Grace Awaken.”

“Mother Mary, calm our fears, have mercy,” the requiem goes.

“Drowning in a sea of tears have mercy, hear our mournful plea.”