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As Peter A. Unger said, “Tree felling can be hazardous if strong winds prevail, if the cuts are not done right, or if a tree splits and twists.” [ASM, 210-218]


Jake Friesen (Jacob Friesen) was an unfortunate participant in the accident that killed two men. Friesen had had no previous experience in forestry before he became a CO. When he arrived at camp, each CO was assigned a task. Some, he says, were given kitchen or camp duties,


“Once we got the hang of [snag felling] and even became quite proficient at it, we actually enjoyed felling snags. Our zeal for work was not appreciated by everyone. There were fellows who tried to do as little work as possible and since supervision was quite minimal, this was easily done, except for the fact that the stump of the trees sawed off were scaled so some sort of record of what was accomplished could be kept. Even though the foreman was very tolerant, there was a limit to his tolerance and when certain fellows consistently brought in a very low scale in comparison to what my partner and I were doing, he wanted to know why.”


Cutting down a snag on a hill side Two men cutting down snags in BC COs sawing logs Log processing plant in BC

Friesen's partner was also named Jake Friesen, so they used nicknames – Blackie and Blondie – based on the colour of their hair.  


“It was in the latter part of July when Blackie and I were assigned to cutting down the snags in a strip next to the highway. The snags were interspersed among the heavy second growth mostly fir so thick one could hardly walk in them. We worked all day and about three o'clock we came to a snag that was unusual in that it was quite crooked which made it almost impossible to control the direction in which it would fall and to add to this problem, this tree was quite rotten. As a rule a sound tree, reasonably straight can be controlled to fall in a certain direction. But with a rotten tree there is no telling what it will do. Having considered all the possibilities we set to work. The tree was 2.5 to 3 feet [76 - 91 cm] thick and anywhere up to 150 feet [46 m] high."

"Having made the undercut, we had barely begun to cut at the back when the tree simply snapped off and instead of falling parallel to the highway it fell towards the highway. As it landed we heard a clanging sound and we immediately knew it had hit something other than just ground. The heavy growth of trees dampened the sound of traffic and we did not realize that we were so close to the highway. Standing on the trunk of the fallen snag we could see the top of a car that was not moving."


"With fear and trembling we made our way to it to find that a most horrible thing had happened. The tree had fallen across the hood of a car driving the motor ten inches into the pavement. The rest of the car was a broken mess. The door on the driver's side was flung open and the driver was sprawled half outside the car. He had hit the steering wheel with enough force to drive it through the windshield. His chest was just simply pulverized and when I pulled him from the car he made a few convulsive movements and then lay still. Kenneth Saunders died instantly. His passenger, Rodney Marsh, had been hurled through the windshield against the trunk of the tree, bounced back and was jammed partly under the dashboard. He, too, had died instantly.”


All the COs were in shock. Injuries to loggers were common, but no one had ever expected something like this to happen. Friesen continues his story.


“The consequences of the accident were first, an investigation as to why, and how it had happened, an inquest presided over by the coroner and a six man jury to determine why's and the wherefore's, also our actions that precipitated the accident, had they been willful or careless, etc., a trip to Victoria for a visit with BC Forestry officials, and last but not least an immense amount of publicity that added greatly to our misery. It took quite a while before Blackie and I could cope with the horror and the trauma positively, and once again take up our tasks of felling snags in a more or less normal manner.” [ASM, 290-292, see also The Road Unknown, by Jacob Friesen, p. 84]


A number of witnesses testified at the inquest. One, a police sergeant who had worked as a logger, said that Friesen and his partner had followed the correct procedure in cutting down the snag. The tragedy was caused by the unpredictability of the rotten snag. The verdict was “Death by Accident.” The father of Rodney Marsh came and shook hands with Friesen. He assured them that although he and his wife were burdened with grief at the death of their only son, they were not angry. Rodney's mother later wrote Friesen a letter explaining how heartbroken she was, but adding that she was convinced that he was now in a better place.

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