by Dylan Angus

My dad was an amazing person. He grew up relatively poor and had to work for every single thing he ever had. He was a devoted father to me, my sister, and my stepbrother. He was an amazing son to my grandmother, Danna. He was a loyal friend, the most loyal you could ever ask for. He would drop everything he was doing to help a friend in need. He was also a hockey/football coach for over 25 years. Very well-known and respected, he was a pillar of his community. He was a very safety conscious individual. He invented protective undergarments for hockey players after watching a kid almost die playing hockey, when a skate sliced the kid’s artery. He was a traditionally masculine man, and someone that many young men looked up to, including myself. He was my best friend, my mentor, and my hero. 

My dad, Ross Angus, was 48 at the time of his death, and he died at work while getting an elevator ready for inspection.

My “knock on the door” actually came while I was at school. I was in class, and my teacher got a call over the intercom. My teacher asked me to gather my things and make my way to the office; he told me that I would be going home. Being a bit of a troublemaker, my first thought was that I was in trouble. I even stashed some stuff in my locker that I shouldn’t have had. I made my way to the principal’s office, where I could hear my mum and my sister crying. I thought to myself “this is bad, what could I have possibly done to get this kind of response?” How wrong I was… Once I walked through the door, my mom looked up at me and said “Dylan, something horrible happened. Your dad was killed at work today.” My entire world collapsed. I could not believe what I was hearing. I wanted to run into the farmer’s fields that surrounded my school and run away. I did not want to exist in a world without my dad. He was supposed to pick me up after school that day. We were going to go get my learner’s driver’s license. My hockey team had playoffs coming up. This couldn’t be happening. 

What had happened to my dad was a complete accident; to this day it still doesn’t make sense why it happened. He was an elevator adjustor (the highest paid/most skilled type of elevator tech) with over 30 years’ experience in the trade. There was nothing to do with elevators my dad did not know. He was also known by his co-workers as a “tight ass” on safety. 

That day, he and his helper (apprentice) were getting an elevator ready for inspection. My dad was late that day (very unlike him) and when the helper tried to reach him, he couldn’t get through (there was a nationwide BBM/Blackberry outage) so he decided to go to the elevator and ride it up to the machine room to get started on some things. My dad walks in the building 45 seconds later (I know it’s 45 seconds because I went to the coroner’s inquest and watched the videos) and makes his way down the hall to the elevator. The night prior, my dad had left the elevator in a “split-door position” which means that the outer doors are closed, and the elevator is positioned in a way that the top of the elevator is at floor level. My dad inserts his lunar key into the door (a key that elevator techs carry, allows them to open the elevator doors manually) and goes to start opening it. As he does this, down the hall there are a couple of drywallers fighting or making a lot of noise, distracting my dad for a split second. He failed to follow the six-inch rule (where an elevator tech stops opening the door when it is six inches open, shining a light inside to ensure the elevator is there) and stepped into the hoist way, thinking the elevator was there. It was not, and he fell four stories to his death. The helper and the TSSA inspector found him there around an hour later. 

The coroner’s inquest came up with some recommendations to make the industry safer. None of the recommendations have actually been made into code over a decade later, unfortunately. No one person was found at fault for the accident. Ultimately, my dad failed to follow a very important rule and it led to his death. He always had so much on the go at any given time, I can only theorize that he was very distracted that day. This, coupled with the distraction from the drywallers, was enough to make him make a fatal mistake. 

I was 16 when he died. I had no idea what it was to be a man, and he was the one I looked to for guidance. They say you should be the strongest man at your dad’s funeral. I learned this the hard way when I had to be there for my family, as a 16-year-old kid. My sister, 13 at the time, was in complete denial for several days after. I don’t think it truly hit her until we saw our dad dead in a casket at the funeral home. I remember lying in my sister’s bed the day he died, hugging her and telling her everything was going to be okay. 

Fast forward over 10 years, and I am still dealing with the effects of this accident. Whether it’s noticing my shortcomings as a man, having to teach myself things that he should have been able to teach me, or the constant anxiety I deal with on a day-to-day basis, the effects are still very much present in my life. The inability to say goodbye to a family member or friend without hugging them and telling them I love them, for fear of that being the last time I see them. My grandmother had to bury her son. She got cirrhosis, lost all of her hair, and her mental health deteriorated. She is doing better now, but the effects of losing her son will never really go away. 

Through my career in elevators, I was informed about the late Tim DesGroseilliers and his sister CK’s involvement in Threads of Life and Steps for Life in Canada. I saw her in an internal safety video she did with TK Elevator. I was inspired by her story and reached out to Threads of Life to get involved. I found strength in this organization, and through volunteering with them, I found purpose. Anyone who has lost someone at work could benefit from Threads of Life, participating in the Steps for Life walk, and volunteering with the organization – spreading awareness with the hope that our efforts will save even just one life, which would make all our efforts worthwhile. 

My message to people is this: No matter how good you think you are, or how confident you may be in your ability, you are not better than my dad. We all play this dangerous game of life, and mistakes can be lethal. If you have made it 10/20/30 years in your field without a serious accident, ask yourself this. Am I really that good, or am I just lucky? Go look at the list of people who have been killed in your industry. In my industry (elevators) the list of fatalities is mostly filled with guys who had 20+ years of experience. This is because experience leads to complacency. You need to take a serious look at yourself and ask yourself that question. 

You may think it is really scary to call out a colleague for doing something stupid or unsafe. Especially if you are new in your industry. If this sounds like you, my message to you is this: If you think it is scary to tell this person they are being unsafe, I can promise you it is scarier to go to their funeral or wake and look their family in the eyes and say these dreaded words… “I am sorry for your loss”. Those images will be burned into your memory forever. 

Refuse unsafe work. Refuse to be another statistic. Speak up, be a hero.