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‘Broken, devastated’: Skyler Blackie’s family gives statements at N.S. Firefighters School sentencing

Click to play video: 'Brother of Skyler Blackie delivers emotional tribute'
Brother of Skyler Blackie delivers emotional tribute
The brother of fallen firefighter Skyler Blackie delivered an emotional tribute at his funeral on Saturday – Mar 30, 2019

The Nova Scotia Firefighters School has been sentenced in the death of 28-year-old firefighter Skyler Blackie, who was fatally injured during a course exam.

On March 9, 2019, Blackie was performing a training exercise at the Waverley, N.S., school when a fire extinguisher exploded and caused a head injury.

He died in a hospital 11 days later.

The provincial Labour Department’s health and safety division launched an investigation in 2019, which led to two occupational health and safety charges against the school.

Read more: Nova Scotia Firefighters School charged over death of Truro firefighter

According to court documents, the faulty extinguisher had been donated by the Imperial Oil Refinery, and the “donated extinguishers were not inspected, serviced, or maintained by the school.”

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The school admitted that measures should have been put in place to ensure that inspections were taking place, the statement of facts read.

On Tuesday, the school was ordered to pay $102,000, which includes a fine, a victim surcharge and $80,000 in bursaries for volunteer firefighters who want to take courses.

‘Our Blackie Bubble has been burst’

Five victim impact statements were also read into the record in court on Tuesday.

These included statements from Blackie’s father and mother, sister, brother and wife.

His father, Blaine Blackie, said he and his wife often referred to their family as the “Blackie Bubble.”

In his statement, Blackie wrote their “whole life was changed” on March 9 when they got the call from Skyler’s brother Errison that he had been injured.

“We spent the next 11 days (his mother and his wife at his side every minute) in hell,” his statement read.

“Our Blackie Bubble has been burst.

Skyler’s mother, Cheryl Ann Blackie, wrote in her statement that she is “sad, broken, devastated and fearful.”

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“These are words that now describe a big part of my life, words that were never a part of my life before March 9, 2019.”

Blackie described her son as an old soul, a role model for kindness and someone who “truly lit up a room.”

Read more: ‘Be more like Skyler’ — Fallen Nova Scotia firefighter laid to rest

She wrote that she is especially sad for her other son, Errison, who shared a special bond with Skyler, as well as the passion to be a firefighter.

Now she fears for Errison’s safety too.

“My boys took on this career to help people and knew that every call they go on they are going into the unknown,” she wrote. “They willingly take that chance knowing they can help perhaps save another, knowing one day they could (lose) their life to save another. But not in the way Skyler lost his life that day.

“I fear without change this could take another precious firefighter’s life, fear that overwhelms me because that firefighter could be another part of my heart and the other half of Skyler’s.”

She says she relives the nightmare of his death every night, and feels for Errison, who was with Skyler when he was fatally injured.

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“I worry what this has done to him. I worry about Skyler’s wife Erin, I worry for my husband and my daughter.”

Errison Blackie wrote in his statement his life revolved around guilt. His brother made his dreams of becoming a firefighter come true, and protected him throughout his life.

“It has taken me some time to convince myself that no one could have saved him,” Errison Blackie wrote.

He was the one who called his parents and Skyler’s wife right after the incident.

“I felt that I gave the ones Skyler loved most a false sense of hope, only to have them receive the worst news imaginable.”

Click to play video: 'Brother of Skyler Blackie delivers emotional tribute'
Brother of Skyler Blackie delivers emotional tribute

Blackie said he couldn’t sleep for months, “spent every waking minute reflecting on that day and those that followed.”

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Nearly three years later, he said he still feels guilt about living out his and Skyler’s dream without him.  But, he continues to go the job they both loved with a smile on his face, he wrote.

Jessica Gillis, Skyler’s sister, gave birth to her daughter shortly after his death. In her brother’s memory, Gillis named their daughter Vera Sky.

“She reminds me so much of her uncle with charm and charisma, but sometimes it pains me to say her name,” Gillis wrote in her statement.

“I long … for the cousins my kids should have had and for the annoying birthday gifts Skyler would have bought for my kids.

“I am sad for all the future things he will not be a part of: the family vacations, Christmases, birthdays.”

Read more: Regimental funeral held for fallen Nova Scotia firefighter

Finally, Skyler Blackie’s wife Erin read her emotional statement to the court.

She recounted the day of the incident, saying Skyler had been preparing for that course exam for months.

“He texted me that day when he arrived and told me he loved me and that he would text me when it was all over. I told him he would crush and I loved him too.

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“(Two) hours later I get a call from Errison,” Erin Blackie wrote. “In an instant, my life as I knew it was over.”

Skyler was not only her husband, but also her best friend, her cheerleader, she said, and “the man that was supposed to be the father of my children.”

Since his death, Erin Blackie admits she has had trouble sleeping eating and living in their home without him.

“My decision-making skills have been so flawed because I was forced to make decisions no 27-year-old should ever have to make.

She ended her statement by noting that no sentence would undo the harm that was caused.

“Skyler cannot come back, but I hope you take my words into consideration,” she said, adding, “Skyler never would have allowed something like this to happen.”

 

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