Longtime Whistler hotel maintenance worker and Squamish resident Roberto Suarez died on Saturday (Dec. 17) after falling from a ladder while working at the Westin Resort and Spa.
The 42-year-old husband and father of two was working in one of the hotel rooms at about 10 a.m. when he fell and suffered a head injury, said Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair of the Whistler RCMP. He was taken to the Whistler Health Care Centre and then transported to Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver where he succumbed to his injuries.
"One of the witnesses says the ladder appeared to be about five metres (16.4 feet) high," LeClair said.
The B.C. Coroners Service and Worksafe B.C. launched an investigation, which is ongoing. A Worksafe B.C. spokesperson said it could take "many months" for the investigation to be completed to determine what happened.
Whistler RCMP are assisting in the investigation and interviewing witnesses, LeClair said. The witness who saw him fall has not yet been interviewed. There was a "spotter" with Suarez at the time as a safety precaution, said Tony Cary-Barnard, the Westin's general manager.
Suarez worked in the Westin's engineering department and had been with the hotel for six years, Cary-Barnard said.
The hotel released a statement dated Monday (Dec. 19) revealing Suarez's name and the details of a memorial service at the hotel that was scheduled for Wednesday (Dec. 21).
"At this time our thoughts are with Roberto's family and friends, including those working here with us," the statement said. "Roberto was married and had two children ages 12 and 9."
Suarez and his family were "very active" parishioners at St. Joseph's
Catholic Church in Squamish, pastor Father Larry Holland told The Squamish Chief on Wednesday (Dec. 21).
"It's a tragic event, to be sure," Father Holland said. "There is a very large support group within the parish and from the broader community."
Squamish resident Michael Enders said he chatted regularly with Suarez when the two regularly rode the Squamish-Whistler commuter bus to work - Suarez to the Westin and Enders to another hotel. The meetings stopped when the bus service was terminated at the end of September, Enders said.
"He was always a happy-go-lucky guy, always smiling. I saw him get off the bus and meet his family and they really seemed like a really loving family. He loved his family, and he always put them ahead of himself."
Added Enders, "I just knew enough about him to strike up a conversation I wish I would have gotten to know him better."
Cary-Barnard said Suarez was well liked and "very well respected" at the Westin. He was part of a "very tight community" of hotel workers residing in Squamish, Cary-Barnard added.
"He was very well liked in the hotel," he said.
Suarez's colleagues at the Westin have started a donation fund for the family.
"Our focus now is certainly supporting the family through this, and our associates," Cary-Barnard said.
A funeral is planned on Friday (Dec. 23) at 4 p.m. at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Squamish.