It’s been difficult to grieve with court proceedings hanging over his head, but Steven Perry said he’s a step closer to closure.
His father, Eldon Perry, passed shortly after a work-related accident at IOC two years ago. The company has recently admitted guilt in three of the five charges laid after an investigation. Sentencing was not available at time of press.
Painful reminders of the death of his father and the inadequate services in the area led him to move away from his hometown with his wife and newborn.
Healthcare was a major reason in the decision, Perry said.
“Healthcare is one of those things where until you need it you don't think about it. You know in the North it may not always be the same as a city center, but you think you've got adequate healthcare.”
Eldon Perry fell approximately 23 feet with another co-worker in the afternoon, and had to wait for an air ambulance from St. John’s until late that night. He succumbed to his injuries before it arrived.
Hospital staff was unable to know what was happening to Eldon internally because they did not have the diagnostic equipment available, and could only provide x-rays and ultrasounds.
With those limitations they couldn’t see a tear in his heart filling with blood.
“They were ill-equipped to deal with trauma in this hospital. To deal with such a trauma in the community, I didn't think it was good enough.”
Perry said the lack of resources was unacceptable.
“The doctors, God love them they try, but they're only as good as the tools they have. And the fact that the air ambulance was in St. John's and it couldn't make it - it wasn't even that he was on board and he died on route; it never even reached Wabush when he died. How long do you have to wait? Ten hours is unreasonable.”
Perry’s wife became pregnant shortly after his father’s death, and after receiving news that she would need the air ambulance giving birth Perry was forced to rely on outside healthcare services once again.
“That's the second time our hospital wasn't equipped to handle something we needed, and that was enough. It wasn't a decision we made lightly, but after being born and raised here - I bleed Labrador - for me to leave wasn't a light decision. But healthcare for your family was far more important.”
But Perry said even with adequate healthcare services he wasn’t sure he would have been able to stay. In such a small town, Perry found himself often seeing individuals involved in his father’s accident, serving as painful reminders.
“I know there were no intentions; no one went to work that day and intended to do their job wrong and put anyone at risk. But the fact is, if everyone did their job my dad would still be here.”
Perry found it too stressful to see them while he was out in the community, and decided to deal with it.
“If we're in any store shopping around, I have to keep an eye out if any of these people might be around. I've abandoned shopping carts or left a restaurant because someone walked through the door and it's stressing me out. I can't expect a bunch of people to leave, so I took control and left myself.”
After he and his wife quit their jobs and left their hometowns with their daughter, Perry still found it difficult to grieve with court proceedings dragging on.
“People talk about closure, but how do you move on when this is hanging over your head?”
IOC’s guilty plea on three charges was a relief, Perry said.
“It's not the ideal situation; I would have preferred them pleading guilty on all five counts. But it's a relief that portion is over.”
Perry said he just wants it all behind him.
“A lot of people go through grief and I'm definitely not the only one. I don't think you ever move past, but it's a step to move forward. Once you get some of this stuff out of the way you can concentrate on just grieving, which we should have done two years ago.”
Perry said although he was glad IOC accepted some of the responsibility he was disappointed in the plea bargaining.
“Dad paid the ultimate price, there was no plea bargain, and I feel that IOC should have to pay the ultimate price. I don't think they'll get them, but for such a large company to defend and say the fines should be decreased, I think is disrespectful to the family. They should plea guilty, apologize, accept the penalty, and try to do better next time.”
The Crown recommended a sentencing of $500,000, the largest penalty of its kind in provincial history. But IOC lawyers requested the fine be lowered to $200,000.
“What's the point of arguing? For such a large company it's not going to break them, so what's the point? Their lack of diligence resulted in a man's death and another man's injuries. Admit guilt and be accountable for that; do the right thing.”
Perry doesn’t anticipate the fine being on the high side, but in the end the size of the fine doesn’t matter.
“I don't get the money, and even if I did it wouldn't matter. My dad's not coming back. I just think it sets an example to other people. Like the Crown said, it shouldn't be cheaper to not do the right thing and just pay the fine. Why can't it be precedent setting for businesses in the province?”
Although he had to move away from Labrador, Perry said he’s still thankful for his hometown.
“The support from friends and family and the union has made this a lot easier. The community has been really great to us over the past two and a half years.”