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Family of Goderich man killed in twister wants answers

The family of a salt mine worker killed in a violent tornado that ripped through a southwestern Ontario town on the weekend is raising questions about his death.

Brenda Turcotte Laberge said Tuesday she wants to know why her 61-year-old husband was the only one killed in the storm that battered Goderich with 280 km/h winds.

Normand Laberge died on the job at the Sifto salt mine, but the company said other employees who were working at the time survived.

So far, the family hasn’t received “proper answers” from the company or town officials, Turcotte Laberge said in an interview from her home in Lucknow, Ont. The couple had been together 14 years and married for two.

At least 37 people were injured as the deadly tornado carved a path through the beach and port town of 8,000 on Sunday afternoon, ripping the roofs off historic buildings, reducing trees to matchsticks and tossing cars around like toys.

Environment Canada has designated the storm an F3-level tornado, the most powerful the agency has seen in Ontario since 1996.

The province has pledged $5 million to help the town, which remains under a state of emergency.

Turcotte Laberge said her husband was manning the boom, an extendable arm that loads freight onto ships, when the twister hit and pinned him under the rubble. Emergency crews managed to dig out his body Monday night, she said.

He worked at the mine for more than 30 years and always kept a close watch on the weather during his shift, she said.

He had reported seeing a bad storm on the horizon, but the tornado “just shot right out before anyone could do anything,” she said. “Within seconds, it was over.”

A spokeswoman for Sifto’s parent company Compass Minerals said the mine was being evacuated but Laberge wasn’t able to escape.

The majority of the mine’s employees work underground but Laberge was up high because he oversees the loading of ships, Kelly Barton said.

His position may have made him more vulnerable to the storm, she said.