One year later, family of Inuvik man killed in workplace accident still seeking answers

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One year after his 19-year-old son was killed in a workplace accident in Inuvik, Robbie Vinnicombe and his sister are still searching for answers. They travelled to Yellowknife from Australia to speak at the territory's annual Day of Mourning  to honour those killed or injured at work, and to learn more about what happened. 

"Our mission is to give David a voice in the investigation process," said Jacqui Vinnicombe, David's aunt. "But also to ensure that there is an ongoing legacy for David in Inuvik that will protect the next young boy who is in the workplace."

Late last June, David Vinnicombe was killed in a rollover during the construction of the new access road for the Inuvik Satellite Station Facility. He had moved to Inuvik about 18 months before the incident, after hearing about work from an uncle who lived there.

"David packed his bag and went on an adventure of a lifetime, and one tragic day he was killed in a machine accident," said Robbie Vinnicombe.

This year, David Vinnicombe's name is the only one in the Worker's Safety and Compensation Commission's Day of Mourning book.

WSCC still investigating

In Yellowknife, the Vinnicombes have met with members of the legislative assembly — including the Minister of Justice — as well as representatives from WSCC.

But details about how David Vinnicombe died remain scant. 

Robbie Vinnicombe said he was driving an open-cab roller, a piece of machinery that he believes was not fit for the environment he was working in.

Jim Sawkins, Inuvik's director of protective services, said that upon arrival at the scene "it became evident that a piece of heavy machine had rolled over on the sole occupant of the vehicle."​

WSCC says it's still investigating. 

But Robbie Vinnicombe said it should never have happened. 

"He shouldn't have been killed in that machine," said Robbie. "It had no place in this environment."

Jacqui Vinnicombe said she believes "fit-for-purpose equipment must be prioritized in the North."

"It's a very unique environment up here with the cold," she said. "The way things happen, the remoteness. We are here to make sure we can make a change to make sure it is right tomorrow.

"We don't want another family in the N.W.T. going through what we've gone through."

More answers needed

The Vinnicombe's have also advocated for improvements in how families are treated following a workplace incident. 

Jacqui Vinnicombe says until their arrival in Yellowknife, they've been "largely dissatisfied."

"We don't really know what's happened. We are not actually pushing a timeframe, we are pushing professionalism," said Robbie Vinnicombe.

"If this takes another year to figure out what happened, so be it. We can handle that… but at the end of the day we just want to see a really, really good job done."

Robbie Vinnicombe said it's important for youth going into northern jobs — like David — to be protected.

"For the young ones leaving school, that they know there are provisions in place that actually help protect them."

The Vinnicombes will speak at the Day of Mourning event at noon Friday at the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly.