Bottling plant employees honoured

By Sean Delaney

“On November 13, 2020, your actions saved a life,” Humber River-Black Creek MPP Tom Rakocevic said to a group of employees at the Weston Coke Canada bottling facility. “Because of you, a family remains whole.”

On that Friday in November, an employee at the Weston bottling facility fell unconscious during their shift. And thanks to the actions of four employees and the supportive actions of all of those on shift that day, that employee has lived to tell the tale.

Rakocevic was at the facility this past week to present honours to Manufacturing Supervisor Ihuoma Onuoha, Manufacturing Supervisor Ernest Ashwood, Forklift Operator David Murray and Production Worker Shirlene Peddie.

“Myself and the whole Coca-Cola family and this employees’ family are very grateful to the people we had on site that day,” said Plant Manager Gareth O’Connell.

According to O’Connell, the employee fell unconscious on the production floor. Murray and Peddie, as well as Onuoha and Ashwood immediately jumped to his aid.

“They performed CPR and got the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) device.”

“They were able to bring him back into consciousness while calling paramedics,” O’Connell said. “They had the right plan and right training to do exactly what they did do and needed to do. After paramedics showed up, about 10 minutes later, they were able to take over, put the employee into the ambulance and take him to hospital. From there, the employee unfortunately suffered two other heart attacks, and was in intensive care for about a week, but we’re really happy to say the actions of those four individuals saved a life.”

O’Connell said the employee is now back at home with full brain functionality and is walking around and talking. His son works at the facility and was on site that day. Supervisors worked with him to comfort him and see that he was at the hospital with his father.

The employee training the Weston facility has implemented deserved a lot of credit for how prepared the employees were, O’Connell said. He explained that every shift at the plant has two employees trained in first aid, and both employees involved in this incident had just recently completed the annual program again. He also said the annual fire training, which incorporated information about the AED devices had finished just a week prior to this incident, and two of the employees were in attendance at that training as well.

Ashwood said the incident was stressful, but he too credited all of the employees, including those not being honoured, for acting as a team and keeping their cool under pressure.

“Because of COVID-19 we always have a supervisor at the door checking in employees for the next shift,” he said. “So, I was there. My other supervisor on shift, Ihuoma (Onuoha) contacts me and says come to the floor with the AED device, an employee is down on the floor unconscious. We called 911 and the designated first aider on shift, Charlene, took over from Ihuoma. Dave Murray was there too, and eventually took over from Charlene. I then asked Dave if he needed help and helped him with the CPR. But there are some unsung heroes too.”

Ashwood said mechanics at the site pitched in and directed paramedics to the employee, ongoing construction inside meant a path had to be cleared, and other employees immediately attended to that.

“As a team, together, we are all heroes,” he said. “Now that I look back, everyone knew what they were doing, and were prepared to do it. I would say it was in our nature to do what we did that day.”

Rakocevic wouldn’t allow the group to get away with such humility.

“When I heard about this, I was really excited to come here and recognize you,” he said to the group. “But I also asked myself, what do you say? We have first responders, paramedics, fire fighters, police officers, that will respond to life threatening situations on a daily basis, that’s what they signed up for. But you guys. Did you ever imagine you would be in this situation? No. But yet you were, and you reacted swiftly. You didn’t question it. You didn’t just look. You saw a life in danger, and you helped him. That day could have ended up in a very different way, with a very different phone call to loved ones, but because of you, his son is able to say I love you again, this close to Christmas. Because of you, this family is still together.”

The Weston Coke Canada Bottling facility currently employs 165 union and 20 non-union employees.

The three production lines at Weston produce 40 million cases per year, including all NESTEA and Peace Tea cans for the country, as well as the full portfolios of Coca-Cola and Monster beverages in cans.