Until a Preventable Workplace Fatality Claimed Yet Another Life
“In the early morning hours of January 7th, 2015, Paul was found in the back of the hopper, lodged in the auger, frozen solid.”
– Virginia Campeau, Paul Campeau’s widow
Together forever until the ship sinks…
That’s what Virginia Campeau and her husband, Paul, always said to each other. In 2012, they met at work and began dating. From that point on, Virginia knew she would spend the rest of her life with him.
“Paul was a caring, passionate and humble man,” says Virginia. They married in 2014. Paul had a deep love for his wife, family, friends, and dog, Baloo.
In January 2015, it wasn’t a sinking ship that tore Paul and Virginia apart – it was a jammed auger in the back of the sand truck Paul was working in. Paul was driving a sand truck, maintaining the roads for winter. He was working alone on a bitterly cold day. When it was freezing outside, there were issues with the auger getting jammed.
Paul’s life was tragically cut short at the age of forty-five.
On January 6th, 2015, Paul left for work like every other day…
“We kissed and said, ‘I love you,’ to each other for the last time,” says Paul’s widow, Virginia.
“In the back of the sand truck there was a hopper with an auger inside,” Virginia explains. “Paul was working alone at the time, so no one really knows what happened, nor do I have a time of death.”
What Virginia does know is this:
“I will never know the exact time Paul took his last breath, or what exactly happened, but I do know the truck he was driving had experienced similar issues in the past.”
– Virginia Campeau
“When it was really cold outside,” Virginia says, “there had been issues with the auger getting jammed, which prevented the sand from filtering through. They had been using a shovel as a temporary solution to get the sand through – and the auger moving again. A replacement part was on order but hadn’t come in yet. If it did, maybe things would have turned out differently.”
After Paul’s frozen body was discovered, the truck had to be dismantled and one of Paul’s legs had to be amputated below the knee, so they could free him.
What went wrong?
Because Paul was working alone at the time, we will never know for sure. But we do know this: there was no safety cover on the back of the hopper to protect Paul. Plus, while waiting for the replacement part to arrive, he was dealing with malfunctioning machinery.
“Workplace safety is non-negotiable. There is no coming back from a workplace fatality. You have the right to say no to unsafe working conditions. And you have the right to come home to the ones you love.”
– Virginia Campeau
“What I miss the most about Paul,” says Virginia, “is the wink he would give me signaling that everything would be okay…and having his arms around me at night, feeling safe and falling asleep to the sound of his heartbeat.”
Paul’s life ended in tragedy. And Virginia was left to pick up the pieces of her broken heart and the shattered dreams for the future they had planned together. This is not the way either of them – or their loved ones – wanted their love story to end.
Whether you are an employee, an employer, or a business owner, please make workplace safety your top priority.
A little bit more about Paul Campeau…
Paul was born in Shawville, Quebec, and was the youngest of three children. When he was young, his family moved to Red Lake Ontario where he grew up. Paul had many loves including his family, his dog, Baloo, and his many friends. He loved Monte Carlo cars, driving his semi-truck, and watching Nascar racing.
To help raise awareness about workplace safety and provide support for others dealing with workplace tragedies, Virginia is a speaker with the Threads of Life Association for Workplace Tragedy Family Support.
Here is the link to read Virginia’s Threads of Life article, “The Day Life Shattered.”
Since 2000, more than 20,000 Canadians have died as a result of their work – either from an occupational illness or injuries sustained on the job.
Is this the legacy we want to be building?
About the JPMF
The JPMF was started after the death of Calgary Police Constable John Petropoulos on Sept 29th, 2000. John was investigating a break and enter complaint when he stepped through a false ceiling, fell nine feet into the lunchroom below and died of a brain injury. There was no safety railing to warn him of the danger; the complaint turned out to be a false alarm.
John was 32.
The JPMF is a registered Canadian charity that raises public awareness about workplace safety issues and educates people about why and how to ensure their workplaces and the roads are safer for everyone, including emergency responders. For further information, please visit jpmf.ca.