Apprentice plumber killed on job site in northwest Calgary 'would do anything for the people he loves'

Liam Johnston's girlfriend said he loved being in the mountains.  (Supplied by Emily Gofton - image credit)
Liam Johnston's girlfriend said he loved being in the mountains. (Supplied by Emily Gofton - image credit)

The man who died on the job in northwest Calgary on Thursday is being remembered as a compassionate person who would do anything for the people he cared about.

On Thursday a 27-year-old Liam Johnston died after he was buried in a collapsed trench while doing sewer repairs in Charleswood. Crews worked for hours to be able to expose the trench.

He was identified as deceased Friday by his girlfriend Emily Gofton.

Gofton told CBC the two met at Mr. Mike's Plumbing, where she used to work. He had been working as an apprentice plumber.

"There's truly not one person that could walk this earth and say that they had a negative experience with him. He was the most compassionate, kind, generous, intellectual person that I've ever met in my entire life," Gofton said.

Supplied by Emily Gofton
Supplied by Emily Gofton

On Facebook, Gofton shared poetry Johnston had written to her, something she said wasn't uncommon.

"He knew exactly what to say to those that he loved and how to make them really feel that. If you had a chance to read that poem, it's almost like he wrote that for this exact moment," she said.

"He would do anything for the people he loves. He worked with those coworkers — for some of them for two to three years. Those are people that he loved, and he would do anything for their well-being."

Gofton said the two started dating in December, and that Johnston had moved to Calgary from Waterloo, Ont., with his best friend.

"This was the place that Liam loved. The only place that he loves more than Calgary would be his cottage back home," she said.

"Calgary was a place of opportunity for him. He loved the mountains. He loved being surrounded by the city."

Gofton said she wants to know why — and how — the incident happened.

She said Johnston texted her concerns about the job site throughout the day on Wednesday.

Supplied by Emily Gofton
Supplied by Emily Gofton

"The last message I have from him on Wednesday before he was coming home — we lived together — so before coming home to me he said, 'Tomorrow's going to be a rough day.' And I don't think he really knew how true that was," she said.

A Calgary Fire Department media release said a man had gone down the ladder into a hole, which had been dug the day before, and a large amount of earth collapsed on top of him from the steep slope above.

Johnston had been working on a ladder in the three- to six-metre deep trench when it caved in.

Mr. Mike's Plumbing, where Johnston worked, issued an emailed statement to CBC Sunday.

"Mr. Mike's Plumbing Ltd. is deeply saddened to report the passing of one of our employees, who died while performing excavation work at a jobsite on Thursday, June 8. He was an upstanding individual and a valued member of our excavation team who will be sorely missed," the statement read.

"We extend our sincerest condolences to everyone who knew and loved him. We are working closely with the authorities to fully understand the circumstances surrounding the incident and to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to prevent such accidents from happening in the future."

The statement added that the company will continue to review and improve its safety procedures.

Alberta Occupational Health and Safety, the medical examiner and Calgary police are investigating.

A spokesperson for the Calgary Police Service said its victim assistance support team is being made available to those who were involved in the incident or witnessed it.