A husband, father and grandfather has been identified as one of two employees reported Friday by Alberta Health to have died in connection to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Olymel plant in Red Deer, Alta.
Olymel and UFCW Local 401 both confirmed Henry De Leon passed away due to complications with COVID-19 and was an employee at the plant.
The union said De Leon worked at the plant since 2005 and described him as “kind, positive and outgoing.”
“A hard worker who always gave one hundred percent, Henry enjoyed working at the Red Deer plant and never missed a day if he could help it,” the union wrote in a statement on its website.
“I’m heartbroken and frankly enraged,” UFCW Local 401 President Thomas Hesse said in a statement. “We’d made ongoing demands for a temporary closure of this Plant to ensure everyone’s safety. Instead, the company sat on its hands and did little or nothing. Now we’re grieving a second death that might have been prevented.”
The union said De Leon passed away on Feb. 24 as a result of complications related to COVID-19 after a long battle in hospital.
“Olymel would like to express that we are deeply saddened by the loss of this employee and offer our sincere condolences to the family and all of our workers at this time,” Olymel spokesperson Richard Vigneault said in a statement.
Alberta Health reported Friday the death of a woman in her 60s was also linked to the Olymel outbreak. It was the third death connected to the plant.
The plant has been closed since Feb. 17. Vigneault said Olymel is meeting regularly with Alberta Health Services as well as union representatives and Occupational Health and Safety in an effort to prepare for reopening.
“We have a robust safety program that we continue to adapt to ensure a safe and successful re-entry,” Vigneault said.
“Before we reopen, we will have OHS and Environmental Public Health tour the facility to evaluate the controls in place. In fact, those regulators were on site for a tour as recently as Jan. 29 and provided us with positive feedback after their visit.”
Darwin Doloque, 35, died in January after contracting COVID-19 linked to the outbreak at the meat processing facility.
Doloque was born and raised in the Philippines, where he worked as a teacher before leaving his home to work abroad. He became a permanent resident of Canada and lived out his dreams of travelling to various provinces as well as to Europe and the U.S.
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