A tragic workplace accident last week has left three young Chilliwack children without their father less than a month before Christmas.
The death of Nathan Appleton after a pre-fabricated wall fell from a crane on him on a construction site in New Westminster on Nov. 29 also means the mother of his children is without her spouse, and his parents are without their 28-year-old son.
The only glimmer of positive coming from the tragic death of Nathan, according to his father Mark, is that as many as seven other people will receive or already have received organ donations.
“That was nice,” Mark told The Progress Wednesday.
Mark set up a GoFundMe campaign to help Nathan’s wife Ashley and the three children aged three, five and seven in this time of grief and pain. By Tuesday the $5,000 goal had been reached, and because others wanted to donate, Mark raised the goal to $10,000.
The workplace accident was investigated by the RCMP and is now under investigation by WorkSafeBC.
And Mark wants answers.
“Why was my son doing a job that he wasn’t trained to do?” he asks.
While official details of what happened are still unconfirmed, Mark was told there was no certified rigger on site so Nathan was asked to secure the walls to be lifted by crane for a residential construction project.
That was just after 10 a.m. on Nov. 29. Four out of five walls were lifted up several stories without incident. But with the fifth wall, something went wrong.
“Nathan was standing right beside the [crane] operator talking with him,” Mark explained. “The operator saw it come and jumped back. The fellow on the balcony yelled at Nathan to get out of the way. Nathan looked up and when he looked up there was no time to move.”
He suffered a ruptured aorta, brain trauma, lacerations to his liver, and deep cuts to his face. He was kept alive although he suffered more than one heart attack between the construction site and Royal Columbian Hospital.
Nathan’s parents and Ashley were called to the hospital and told the news.
“They said ‘your son has been involved in a tragic accident and it doesn’t look good,’” Mark recalled. “When the doctor, the brain surgeon or neurologist came in, he did a CT scan and there was no brain activity. He was already brain dead at that point. They couldn’t do anything.”
That was just after 2:30 p.m. the next day, Friday, Nov. 30. Ashley and Nathan’s parents then met with the organ donation centre, tests were done, and by Monday they were told five of his organs could be harvested for transplant recipients during an operation that evening.
“We got a call Tuesday morning from the organ donor centre and they told us the operation went well… and instead of five, there were seven recipients that got Nathan’s organs. That was nice.”
Attention is now focused on Ashley and the three kids, particularly as the 28-year-old man was the sole income provider for the young family.
In addition to the GoFundMe account, two other fundraiser have been set up to help the family.
Corky’s Irish Pub is hosting Christmas for the Kids on Dec. 21 from 6 to 9 p.m. with $15 tickets for a burger and a drink fundraiser.
And Nathan’s sister Koren was involved with Excel Martial Arts, so the studio is hosting a “Parent Christmas Shopping Break” fundraiser for the Appletons on Dec. 15 from 2 to 5 p.m. Donations of $10 will be accepted for each child who attends, and it will be an afternoon of movies and games so parents can get some shopping done.
Mark said Save-On-Foods has stepped up to take the family on at Christmas, and the kids’ school, Robertson elementary, is similarly helping out.
As for Mark and his focus on the accident investigation, working as an electrician and an occupational safety officer himself, he said he is somewhat familiar with these matters. He actually went back to the site of the accident to pay his respects to where Nathan was killed.
“Nothing had been touched,” he said. “There was still parts of Nathan’s clothes that they had cut off. There was tubes with blood in it, scissors, everything. They were working frantically trying to revive him, you could just see all the stuff. Still some of Nathan’s tools were scattered around.”
Whatever happened, Mark expects the investigation to find out and if anyone needs to be held accountable, they will be.
“I want answers to this accident.”