Victim of Saint John, N.B. workplace accident remembered as a ‘brother’

Click to play video: 'Calls for accountability after fatal N.B. workplace accident'
Calls for accountability after fatal N.B. workplace accident
Advocates are demanding accountability, after a second fatal accident at the AIM recycling plant in Saint John in the span of a year. Robert Lothian reports. – Jul 4, 2022

Charismatic, caring and humble are just a few words Darrell Richards’ now-former bandmates would use to describe him.

“He had friends from all walks of life, and he touched everybody that he met, and there’s a lot of people in Saint John that know him and love him and feel like he’s their brother,” said Wendy Hanson, a member of the band Ryan Drive.

Saint John Police confirmed Friday that a worker died following an industrial accident at the AIM Recycling Atlantic Facility. The man, they said, was identified as Darrell Richards.

Richards’ death has led to an outpouring of support on social media, mostly involving fond memories and videos of the bass player jamming out.

Read more: Worker dies after incident at Saint John AIM facility

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Dan Gallant, another member of Ryan Drive, said it’s difficult to remember a time when Richards had anything other than a smile on his face.

“We know what Darrell would say. Darrell would say, ‘You’re a mess, get yourself together’ — that’s what he would say, and he would want us to move on,” remarked Gallant.

Reflecting on their time playing in a band with Richards, both Gallant and Hanson said they became a family together through music.

Read more: Workplace fatality reported at Saint John AIM recycling facility

Gallant said they are planning a celebration of life for Richards, but they are still in the midst of sorting out the details.

Calls for accountability

Following the incident Thursday, there have now been two fatal accidents at the AIM facility in less than a year.

WorkSafeNB launched an investigation in November 2021, after a worker was injured during an industrial accident and later died in hospital.

Former Saint John Mayor Don Darling once led a motion to ensure proper enforcement at the facility located along the harbour. At the time, concerns over the AIM facility stemmed from recurring explosion events and excessive levels of noise.

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More pressure to include mandatory 24 hr shutdown following blasts at SJ metal shredding plant

“When there’s been two loss(es) of life since November and a long history, this facility, of incidents, explosions and all kinds of other issues, you know, I think it’s a wake-up call here,” Darling told Global News in an interview Monday.

Typically, explosions at the plant occur when propane tanks or other compressed containers are left in recycled vehicles before they are placed in a shredder.

Located on federal land at Port Saint John, the AIM facility is regulated by the provincial government.

“What the city was asking for was not only the company to act responsibly, but also for the Port of Saint John and the provincial government to play their roles also in ensuring that the environment was protected, that worker safety was protected, and that the company was following its obligations under its approval to operate,” Darling said.

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“From my perspective as the former mayor, that wasn’t the case, and you know, here we are again talking about AIM and another tragic incident this week.”

Read more: Several workers injured after floor in building under construction collapses in Moncton

In a statement to Global News last week, a spokesperson for WorkSafe NB said while the deaths at the AIM facility are under investigation, more complex matters such as fatalities can take 12 months or longer to conclude.

Shawn Gorman Wetmore is the president of the Saint John District Labour Council.

“Twelve months is an awful long time to me, I would think, and to still be open while it’s being investigated,” said Gorman Wetmore.

“They should know something sooner than that and what they’re going to do about it.”

In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for New Brunswick’s Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training, and Labour said WorkSafeNB is responsible for the administration of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

That gives the Crown corporation the sole authority to issue a stop-work order, they said.

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