Friends and family of the victims of Thursday’s horrific explosion at an Ottawa tanker truck manufacturer are mourning the loss of their loved ones, while authorities continue to piece together what caused one of the deadliest industrial disasters in the city’s history.
One man is confirmed dead and five other people are missing and presumed dead following the explosion and fire at Eastway Tank Pump and Meter Ltd., at 1995 Merivale Rd. The blast occurred at about 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
Among the victims is longtime Eastway employee Rick Bastien, 57, a former supervisor at the facility who is listed on the company’s current directory as a welder/fabricator/mechanic.
“My father all his life worked himself to the bone to provide for his family,” wrote Josh Bastien in a series of text messages to CBC News.
I truly think my dad just wanted to retire and figured it would be soon.– Josh Bastien
“He was a stand-up guy, loved by everyone that came across him. I never knew him to have enemies. He would be there for his friends at the drop of a hat. He loved me and my sister and we could always count on him to be there,” wrote Bastien, who worked alongside his father at Eastway until about a year ago.
Bastien said his father was a skilled craftsman who recently put the finishing touches on the house he shared in Luskville, Que., with his wife, Louise Martel.
“We had 10 wonderful years together and believed we had at least 30+ more to come,” Martel wrote on her husband’s Facebook page. “We had great plans. RIP RICK. I love you and I always will, until we meet again.”
Josh Bastien said his father was three years from retirement and was looking forward to leaving Eastway.
“He was the best dad I could ever ask for. I’m so grateful for the times we had together,” he wrote.
“My dad wanted out but I truly think my dad just wanted to retire and figured it would be soon,” he continued. “Not soon enough.”
‘My heart goes out to their families’
Bastien said he worked with all of the people dead or missing after Thursday’s explosion and fire, describing them as friends and “good people.”
Among the victims was the plant’s new supervisor, whom Bastien described as “a good man”; a young woman who trained as a welder under his father; a French-speaking immigrant from Africa who was “always a happy smiling laughing guy at work and my dad loved him and so did I”; another man who was “always telling jokes and fun to be around”; and a man from Deep River, Ont., who loved fishing and off-roading in his Jeep.
One survivor was airlifted to Toronto, where he was being treated in the burn unit at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. The hospital declined to disclose his condition to CBC News on Friday.
Authorities have not released the names of the dead, missing or injured, and CBC News has not independently verified their identities.
Neil Greene, president and owner of Eastway Tank, issued a statement on Friday saying it was “with great sadness that we learned that one of our colleagues perished as a result of the tragic explosion, with five remaining missing and one in hospital.”
“My heart goes out to their families, loved ones and to all of our employees who are reeling from this deep loss,” Greene said.
“We remain in close contact with investigators, and we will co-operate with authorities on all ensuing investigations. We want to get to the bottom of what happened.”