Speaker Profiles: Central Canada

Since 2005, Threads of Life has raised awareness of the importance of injury prevention to more than 68,000 people.

Below are some of our speakers who currently reside in Ontario. Each chooses to share their personal story and to talk about the aftermath and reality of workplace tragedy – long after the headlines are gone. Not all speakers are listed. Please call to discuss your event and the best match available.

We will match your event with the right speaker. To book a speaker for your event please:


Below are just a few of our more than our 50 speakers…

Bill Bowman – Living with a life-altering injury (ON)

Bill was a student, working a summer job in a factory on a brake press machine. He was asked to do a “rush job” on a machine he wasn’t familiar with. While setting up the machine, he accidentally stepped on the unguarded foot pedal. The machine cycled, crushing bones in his left arm. Eventually his hand and part of his arm were amputated. Bill currently is employed by the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board as an Instructor in a modified Literacy & Basic Skills Program. He has found working with Special Needs Adults to be an extremely enjoyable and rewarding new challenge.

Eva and Fred Broughton – Mom and Dad (ON)

Eva and Fred’s son, Bruce (22), tragically died when he fell from the roof of a 60-foot building on a construction site in Grand Prairie, Alberta while working for an Ontario-based company.

Betty Cousineau – Mom (ON)

Betty’s son, Kent (33), a fire ranger, was severely burned when a “flashback” fire occurred while he burned brush in a training exercise. He died of complications arising from the second and third degree burns he received to more than 50% of his body.

Heather Dahmer –  Spouse (ON)

Heather’s husband Jim (70) spent years exposed to asbestos; first as a young worker at a local plumbing/heating wholesaler where he handled asbestos rope and pipe covering and later as a plumber/steam fitter and a maintenance supervisor with a school board. Jim lost his seven year battle with mesothelioma (cancer) attributed to exposure to asbestos in 2011. Heather speaks about her life with Jim and the challenges she continues to face as a result of this devastating occupational disease.

Fran DeFilippis – Spouse (ON)

Fran was happily setting into young parenthood with two children when her husband Naz (40) died suddenly when working on a condo construction site in Toronto. Unaware that the safety platforms in the elevator shaft were inadequately constructed, Naz and his coworker plunged 18 floors to the parking lot garages when the platforms they were standing on collapsed. He died from multiple blunt forced injuries.

Diana Devine headshotDiana Devine – Daughter (ON)

Rico Iannucci, Diana’s dad, was old enough to have retired, but he just loved to work. He was operating a back hoe when it unexpectedly popped into gear, propelling him backwards over a steep cliff to the river below. An investigation was unable to determine what caused the machine to malfunction.

Marj Deyell – Mom (ON)

Marj’s son, John (23), was working for an Ontario-based company in Detroit, Michigan unloading a bucket elevator system from the flatbed of a truck when the head struck him, killing him instantly. Today they are a family struggling to find happiness again after the death of their son and brother. Marj has spoken to numerous high school and corporate audiences to raise awareness around injury prevention.

Jasmine Fisher – Sister (ON)

Jasmine was just 13 years old when her big brother and best buddy Micheal (22) was killed after a fall on a construction site. Micheal was working as a roofer when he slipped and fell three stories. He died of head injuries after six days in hospital.

Sharon Freeman – Step-mom, Toronto Steps for Life Coordinator (ON)

Sharon brought her step-daughter, Amanda Peat (14), with her for “Take Our Kids to Work Day” at the manufacturing plant where she worked. She wasn’t able to bring her home after a ride on an industrial vehicle took her young life. Sharon’s presentation is particularly well-suited to youth.

Ann Grant – Mom (ON)

Ann’s son Evan (25) was working as a powerline technician in Alberta, helping to install transmission lines when the pole he was working on collapsed. Evan was fatally injured. Ann speaks of the devastating impact of Evan’s death on her and on their family.

Renee_4928[1]Renee Guay – Daughter (ON)

Renee’s dad John loved his job as a stationary engineer and worked with boilers, compressors and machinery for 40 years. The wrap around the machinery and pipes contained asbestos and had to be replaced as it deteriorated. Proper procedures during the removal of asbestos were not followed by the contract workers brought in to do the work. Unbeknownst to John and his co-workers, they were repeatedly exposed to airborne asbestos. John was diagnosed with mesothelioma and died only nine months later.

Tami Helgeson – Mom (Northwestern ON-MB border)

Tami’s son, Eric, had just celebrated his 20th birthday when he was killed on a Winnipeg construction site. While working in the building, a crane tipped; collapsing the building Eric was working in.

hiuser amberAmber Hiuser – Living with a life-altering injury (ON)

Amber was working her first real job after high school, operating CNC machine mills, when she sustained a serious hand injury while using a chop saw. Amber went through surgeries and rehab to gain mobility in her hand, but many simple tasks are still a challenge: buttoning buttons, opening doors, washing dishes.

Lisa Kadosa – Daughter (ON)

Lisa’s father, Robert Nesbitt (57), had worked in mining for 37 years. He was killed when his load-haul-dump machine struck the platform he was on and snagged a sling that had been left hanging off the stand, pulling the two-ton stand on top of him and killing him instantly. He was quoted at his inquest as being “a very safe worker”.

Kate Kennington – Spouse, Program Manager – Family Support, Threads of Life (ON)

Kate’s husband, Rob, was known as a safety conscious pilot. After several long weeks of separation from his family, Rob was only minutes into his return flight to ‘his girls’ when his Cessna 207A plane crashed into the mountain side, killing him upon impact.

Johanna LeRoux – Mom (ON)

Johanna’s son, Micheal Fisher (22), was known to be safety-conscious. A quick trip up the ladder took a tragic turn when he slipped from the icy roof and fell three stories. After sustaining a traumatic head injury, Micheal died six days later.

Trish Penny headshotTrish Penny – Sister (ON)

Trish’s big brother Luke had just started a job doing weatherproofing on buildings. A foundation collapsed and Luke was crushed. Trish was the only one home when a police officer came to the door to tell the family the news.

Patti Penny headshotPatti Penny – Mom (ON)

Luke was Patti’s middle child, a charming and hard-working young man. He had started a new job weatherproofing buildings. Luke was working in a trench when the foundation wall burst out from the bottom killing him instantly.

Bob Quarrell cropBob Quarrell – Dad (ON)

Bob’s story is unique and heart-breaking. He was working in an underground mine in Elliott Lake when the cage (mine elevator) went into freefall and Bob suffered serious back injuries when the brakes caught and it stopped abruptly. Years later, Bob’s son Tyler was killed on the job — he was moving a huge slab of granite for the counter-top company he worked for, and was crushed.

Emily Roadhouse – Cousin (ON)

When most people think of a tragedy they think it affects only immediate family members but Emily can tell you different. Emily’s cousin, Christopher Turnbull (35), was reloading four bags of fallen asphalt into a hydraulic palletizer at the sand-and-gravel plant where he worked. Unaware that the hydraulic system had not been properly locked-out, Chris was trapped by the forks and crushed. Emily aptly shares how the loss of her cousin has had far-reaching effects on her entire family.

Jim Sandford – Dad (ON)

Jim Sandford works in the elevator construction business and was so proud when his son Jimmy (31), followed in his foot steps–until disaster struck. Jimmy (Jr.), a licensed elevator mechanic, died when an elevator platform rammed into the top of the elevator shaft he was working on. The weight compensation on the elevator was too heavy and pulled the elevator platform up at freefall speed. Jimmy succumbed to his injuries.

Shelby Sandford – Sister (ON)

Shelby Sandford was just a young girl when her older brother Jimmy died as a result of a workplace tragedy. Jimmy was an elevator mechanic, working on an elevator shaft when the elevator malfunctioned.

Carolyn Sim – Spouse (ON)

Carolyn’s partner Dan Pelletier (48), was severely injured on a construction site, when he fell from a ladder into an uncovered window well, landing on his head. He died from a traumatic brain injury two weeks later, leaving Carolyn and their two sons behind.

Bill Stunt – Dad & Chair, Threads of Life (ON)

Bill’s son Karl (25) was working at a ski resort when he sustained a severe head injury. Karl was working from a maintenance cage, inspecting the ski lift and support structures, when the cage entered the station at the bottom of the hill with Karl still on top. After striking his head as the cage entered the station, Karl was found hanging from a safety harness. He had been assigned this responsibility without the proper training.

Joanne Wade – Mom (ON)

Joanne’s son Brent (22) was killed when the dump truck he was driving was struck by a passenger train. He was driving the fully loaded truck up a hill and did not see the train at the top of the grade because brush to his right obstructed his view. He couldn’t hear the whistle blow because he was gearing down.

Susanne Wilson – Spouse (ON)

Susanne lost her husband, Bob Auger (51), to mesothelioma – an incurable cancer caused by inhalation of airborne asbestos fibres. Exposed while working at a summer job in a rubber plant at 16, Bob’s condition went undiagnosed for many years. Susanne talks about how her family was affected by Bob’s unrecognized health condition, how he was diagnosed, and their family’s journey through his illness and his death.

Debbie Virgoe – Spouse (ON)

Debbie’s husband David (48) was a transport truck driver who had been driving commercial vehicles for 32 years and had never had a preventable collision. While driving on Hwy. 400, his rig was hit by cars streetracing and by turning his truck toward the ditch, he saved a number of other vehicles from colliding. He was regarded as a hero by the Ontario Provincial Police and has received a number of awards posthumously.

…and others from across Canada

Many of our speakers are able to travel to other regions for an event. Contact us at speakersbureau@threadsoflife.ca and we will match your event with the right speaker. Speaker profiles are also available for our volunteers in Western Canada and Atlantic Canada & Quebec.

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