A Shell Canada employee lost his life over $112.85 worth of fuel this weekend, a “gas-and-dash” tragedy that is leading to calls for better employee-safety laws in Ontario and across Canada.
Police say the gas-station attendant, described as a 44-year-old married father, was struck by a man who filled up his SUV and then fled a midtown Toronto station. Police haven’t made any arrests, but they have named a 39-year-old as a person of interest.
One witness told TV reporters the attendant – who had not yet been publicly identified by police – was “hanging on for dear life” after he was struck while trying to stop the SUV. He died when he was unable to hold on.
Managers of the Shell station were meeting with the man’s family members Sunday night. Shell Canada has issued a statement reminding its employees that “under no circumstance” are they to put themselves in harm’s way.
With gas prices rising, some critics are concerned more deaths will follow. And, they say, politicians and retailers are stubbornly reluctant to consider some tried-and-true safety measures.
Premier Dalton McGuinty vowed that his government will look at how to make workplaces safer, particularly for gas-station attendants.
“This gentleman lost his life in such a tragic and unfortunate way,” Mr. McGuinty told reporters on Monday. “I think one of the things we owe that family, and that gentleman in particular, is to take a long, hard look at what lessons we might draw from it.”
“That young man, like Grant, was slaughtered on the altar of convenience,” Doug De Patie, a B.C. plumber, said in an interview from Salmon Arm, B.C.
Seven years ago Mr. De Patie’s son, 25-year-old gas-station attendant Grant De Patie, was killed in a similar circumstance to the incident this weekend. The outcry over that tragedy – which involved a teenaged driver who refused to pay $12 for gas – led British Columbia to implement “Grant’s Law,” legislation that ushered in a series of protective measures for retail employees who work alone at night.
“Every B.C. gas station is pay before you pump,” said Mr. De Patie, adding that Grant’s Law led to that policy, and also prompted retailers to step up employee training and to install better physical protections.
Mr. De Patie continues to try to convince other provinces to follow B.C.’s lead, but so far his lobbying efforts have fallen flat. “It takes a death,” Mr. De Patie said. “It’s just like trying to get a light at an intersection. Until a bunch of people get killed they don’t put in a light.”
There have been other tragedies. In Saskatoon last year, a 50-year-old Shell employee named Jimmy Wiebe was shot while working alone during a nighttime robbery, and the province is now considering a package of proposals known as “Jimmy’s Law.”
Ontario is no stranger to such tragedies. In Mississauga last year, a 62-year-old Petro-Canada attendant named Hashem Atifeh Rad was killed as he tried to stop a driver from leaving the pumps without paying.
Late last week, CBC broadcast a news item that aired complaints from gas retailers who said that surging prices had led to a spike in “gas-and-dash” scams.
In the latest incident, which took place Saturday at 9 p.m., an Isuzu SUV pulled into a Toronto gas station at Marlee and Roselawn avenues, fuelled up, then fled – killing the employee who tried to stop the crime.
Police say the SUV may have had stolen licence plates attached to it and they named Max Edwin Tutiven as a person they would like to question.
With a file from Karen Howlett