Tragic Fall Claims Life of Quebec Floor Installer, Family Seeks Answers

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One of Hill's sons got his Stetson hat after the funeral. Courtesy of Lynn Chénier

In a tragic incident that has left a family seeking answers, Ron Hill, a floor installer from western Quebec, died following a fall on his boss’s property. Hill, who was set to turn 63 next month and only two years shy of retirement, suffered a fatal accident on September 10, according to CBC News. He was struck by machinery and fell from a building on his employer’s property in Ottawa’s rural southeast outskirts.

Despite the incident occurring during a side job, Ontario’s Ministry of Labour is treating it as a workplace fatality. The ministry has issued four orders against Hill’s Ottawa-based employer, Southgate Carpets Inc., a move often indicating health and safety law contraventions. However, these orders don’t automatically lead to charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The circumstances surrounding Hill’s death are perplexing, given his expertise in flooring installation. His family, in their quest for clarity, expressed doubts about the safety measures in place at Southgate, a company recognized as a flooring contractor by the WSIB. “When you do flooring [and] you install carpet, you don’t expect to die,” lamented Lynn Chénier, Hill’s sister.

Sean McKenny, president of the Ottawa & District Labour Council, echoed the sentiment, asserting Hill expected to return home after his day’s work.

Hill’s brother-in-law Louis Chénier took these photos of the property, three days after Hill’s death. The building is no longer there. Courtesy of Louis Chénier

Remembered fondly by his family, Hill was a hardworking, big-hearted grandfather, known for his cowboy attire and strong work ethic, which he developed while working on his family’s sugar bush in L’Île-du-Grand-Calumet, Que. His sister Colleen Baird recalled his unwavering willingness to help, saying, “Ronnie never said no.” Before joining Southgate Carpets, Hill had a longstanding tenure at Capital Tile & Flooring Ltd., only leaving when the COVID-19 pandemic impacted his full-time employment.

Leslie Morgan, Capital Tile’s office manager, remembered Hill with affection, highlighting his love for his grandchildren and his annual gesture of sharing his best maple syrup.

The days leading to Hill’s accident revealed his enduring dedication to work. He had been pouring cement just a week earlier during Labour Day weekend, part of his efforts to prepare for retirement at 65. His former boss, Stephen Frodsham from Capital Tile, noted that Hill was often unavailable for work, signaling his commitment to other jobs.

The back of Ron Hill’s funeral program shows him in his trademark cowboy garb. Hill was eyeing retirement when he died Sept. 10 in what Ontario’s Ministry of Labour says was a workplace fatality. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Hill’s family recounted their concerns about his exhaustive schedule. Chénier worried about him falling asleep at the wheel, and Baird shared that Hill had expressed tiredness but was determined to progress with the job at Southgate Carpets.

The fatal accident occurred at a site in Edwards, a rural community in Ottawa’s southeast, owned by Mohamad Charaf, the president of Southgate Carpets. Ottawa Fire Services responded to the call, finding Hill had fallen nearly four meters after being struck by part of an excavator, as detailed by Perry Hill, his youngest brother.

The Ministry of Labour’s ongoing investigation and its extended timeframe, now up to two years, leave the family in a prolonged state of uncertainty. This situation resonates with Louise Martel, whose partner was a victim in the January 2022 Eastway Tank explosion in Ottawa. Sharing a connection with Hill’s family, Martel’s advice was poignant: “Don’t give up. Make sure you have answers.”

The Ottawa Police Service concluded their investigation, finding no evidence of criminality. Hill’s family, while not suspecting foul play, expressed disappointment in Charaf’s absence at Hill’s funeral and his lack of communication.