Underground Construction

Working underground to build water lines is very hazardous, especially in the soft unconsolidated strata under this city. You may have noticed items in local papers telling how construction workers joined union officials of the Building and Construction Trades Council at a small ceremony on March 15, 2000 at the Sheppard construction site to commemorate the five immigrant workers who lost their lives 40 years ago, March 17, 1960, when the water main tunnel they were building collapsed.

The men were working under the Don River, near York Mills Rd. and Yonge St., without hard hats, safety boots, flashlights or breathing apparatus when a flash fire struck. They were trapped by choking smoke, and the tunnel shoring collapsed. This tragedy resulted in important changes to health and safety legislation in this province. Another result was that many workers joined unions, especially immigrants, who previously had shied away from them.

A memorial quilt by Toronto artist Laurie Swim is to be hung at York Mills subway station. It portray how Pasquale Allegrezza, 27, Giovanni Battista Carriglio, 46, Giovanni Fusillo, 27, Alessandro Mantella, 25, and Guido Mantella, 23 met an agonizing death. The Building and Construction Trades Council is also pushing for a plaque at Hogg’s Hollow to mark the site and to serve as a reminder. They feel that the younger generation must be made aware of the tragedy and continue support strong safety regulations and other measures to protect construction workers. They must be aware that they still face death and injuries every day. Bad accidents happen all the time. The price of safety is eternal vigilance.