Advertisement

Widow and children of Cargill worker who died from COVID-19 share heartbreak

Widow and children of Cargill worker who died from COVID-19 share heartbreak
WATCH: Benito Quesada's four children are struggling without their father. His wife, now a widow, is worried about the family's future. Quesada worked at Cargill’s High River meat plant and died after testing positive for COVID-19. Jill Croteau reports.

It’s barely been three weeks, but the family of Benito Quesada say they’re ready to share their grief. Normally a very quiet and private family, the Quesadas, wanted to talk about what happened to their father and husband.

The 51-year-old died May 7 in hospital. For three weeks, the longtime Cargill meant plant employee fought for his life after testing positive for COVID-19.

Second Cargill employee to die from COVID-19 ‘humble, gentle family man’
Second Cargill employee to die from COVID-19 ‘humble, gentle family man’

READ MORE: 2nd Cargill employee to die from COVID-19 ‘humble, gentle family man’

Story continues below advertisement

His eldest daughter, 16-year-old Ariana Quesada, said it was hard to watch him suffer.

“He’s always strong and the one that protects us. Seeing him there, vulnerable, I had never seen him like that,” Ariana said.

“Those are the final memories I have of him. That’s definitely not how we want to remember him. That’s not the same person who raised us.”

Benito Quesada, a worker at the Cargill plant in High River, Alta., died from COVID-19 over the weekend. Courtesy: UFCW 401
Benito Quesada, a worker at the Cargill plant in High River, Alta., died from COVID-19 over the weekend. Courtesy: UFCW 401. Courtesy: UFCW 401

“Me and my siblings keep saying he was the best dad in the world. He truly was,” Ariana said.

Everything in the home is still as he left it. The family said they can’t bear to disturb the personal belongings of the devoted husband and doting dad.

“We haven’t touched anything. His boots are still in the entry way, his toothbrush, his cologne, everything is still there,” Ariana said.

Story continues below advertisement

Mary Quesada, Benito’s wife, said she worries for their future.

Benito and Mary Quesada
Benito and Mary Quesada. Courtesy: Ariana Quesada

“My family is devastated, and this time is very hard. Every day is very hard,” Mary said.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

“My five-year-old sister is saying things she shouldn’t have to say, telling my mom: ‘Please don’t die like my dad did.’ It’s so hard for her and my brothers,” Ariana said.

Benito and his daughter, Arexia.
Benito and his daughter, Arexia. Courtesy: Ariana Quesada

Five-year-old Arexia Quesada said he died because “something happened to his heart.”

Story continues below advertisement

“I miss my dad but he was the best dad,” Arexia said.

“I didn’t know that he needed it, but he needed to go.”

Ten-year-old Aldrin Quesada said it’s been tough.

“He enjoyed being with us and I enjoyed being with him,” Aldrin said.

READ MORE: 2nd death at Cargill prompts calls from Alberta NDP, union to shut down meat plant

Twelve-year-old Adriel Quesada said their relationship was just starting to blossom.

“Me and my dad, we started to bond this year. It was hard emotionally and mentally because I don’t have anybody else to talk to,” Adriel said.

“My dad worked really hard for us. He was somebody who loved his family.”

Benito and son Adriel.
Benito and son Adriel. Courtesy: Ariana Quesada

They say he accepted a $500 bonus to go work after workers at the meat packing plant had already been infected.

Story continues below advertisement

“He risked his life for his job,” Ariana said.

Cargill released a statement on behalf of the company.

“If the family has any concerns regarding payments, we encourage them to discuss those concerns with the known HR representatives they have been in contact with to address these issues.”

Prime minister weighs in on Cargill situation as another death is linked to plant
Prime minister weighs in on Cargill situation as another death is linked to plant

The family says no officials from Cargill have reached out to offer condolences.

“The only person we’ve been in contact with from Cargill is worker from human resources who we are settling a payment [with]. Other than that, no contact from Cargill,” Ariana said.

“We have been in recent contact with his family and have followed up to offer our heartfelt condolences to his wife and family,” the company said in a statement.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Widower of Cargill worker shares his loss after losing wife to COVID-19

“Benito was a colleague and friend, serving as a partner in his role as a union steward. We are grieving with the community as we face loss and illness together.

“The company can confirm that a health services manager was in contact with the family during Benito’s hospitalization and that support was offered at that time. The company can further confirm that multiple efforts by senior members of the High River facility’s staff made immediate and multiple efforts to contact the family as soon as the staff were made aware of Benito’s passing, and it is completely understandable why they would not be taking calls at that time.

“In the past weeks, the company has been successful in making direct contact with the family and has had several conversations regarding any support the company may be able to offer.”

Employees return to work at Cargill meat-packing plant
Employees return to work at Cargill meat-packing plant

The statement also reads: “We can also confirm that a moment of silence was held on the plant floor and that the flag was flown at half-mast to honour Benito’s memory and the important contribution he made as a friend and employee of the company.”

Story continues below advertisement

A family friend launched a gofundme in the days after Benito died. Mary herself has started a gofundme to help support her family.

“I want — every time someone looks up the name Cargill, I want my dad’s name to pop up,” Ariana said. “He was a person. I know for a fact he didn’t want to go this soon.”