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Coast tree faller dies in logging incident near Egmont

Remembering Darren Emerson
N. Darren Emerson
Darren Emerson grew up on the Sunshine Coast, graduating from Chatelech Secondary School in 1988, and had been tree falling since his teenage years. The faller died Jan. 24 at 51.

Tree falling was in Darren Emerson’s blood. His father was a faller and taught Darren straight out of high school.

“He’s been doing tree falling all his life,” said brother Rory Emerson. “He knew it was dangerous, but he just loved the challenge. And that was what drove him – at least that’s what he told me on occasion.”

Emerson, 51, died Jan. 24 while working at a logging site in the North Lake area. 

The faller was hit by a snag, said Jim Smith, the site’s contractor. Emerson, as a hand faller, was a self-employed subcontractor, said Smith. 

Sunshine Coast Search and Rescue responded to the incident at the request of the coroner to do recovery.  

The BC Coroner’s service is investigating the death, as is WorkSafe BC. 

The WorkSafe investigation’s primary purpose is to determine the cause of the incident, including contributing factors, so as to prevent similar incidents in the future, said a WorkSafe BC spokesperson in an email. 

Friends and family, including Emerson’s daughters Melissa, 23, and Ashley, 22, are remembering a man dedicated to his family, who loved the outdoors and was well respected in his industry. 

Raised in West Sechelt, Emerson graduated from Chatelech Secondary School in 1988. Joining Emerson as a teenager in taking up the profession, following in his own father’s shoes, was Gordon Fallis. The two second-generation fallers were falling partners off and on for 30 years. “[Darren’s] worked pretty much everywhere. Every inlet on the Sunshine Coast,” said Fallis. “He’s the most honest and meticulous and hard, hard worker. He took great pride in his work.

“I told his kids, it would be hard to find a better person than what their dad was. Just a truly honest, good person.”

Doug Sladey met the news of Emerson’s death with disbelief. Emerson worked for Sladey  Timber for more than a decade. Sladey described him as “one of the hardest working, safest guys there ever was in the falling industry.”

One of Sladey’s jobs as the company owner was to check on all of the fallers and how safely they were working. “He was one of the guys I never worried about.”

 “Everybody loved him in the crew,” said Sladey. “And everywhere he went, he was well recognized as being one of those real experts and a good guy.”

But most of all, friends and family remember Emerson as a devoted father.

“He was always here for me and my sister, like anything – oil changes, brakes, just to talk,” his daughter Ashley said. “I think that’s what we are going to miss the most – you could believe anything he said. He was always honest and he’d give you his best advice.”

“His girls were everything to him,” said Courtney Ross, Emerson’s girlfriend of four years. “He was the most caring, affectionate person, never ever wanted anything in return. He just would be there for anybody.”

Ross and Emerson had known each other for years, and after old relationships ended, reconnected. “As Darren explained it, we were friends for a long time and then we became best friends and we ended up being together.”

That Monday morning, she hugged him on the step, said good bye and figured by 4 p.m. he’d be home again. “When people say, ‘life is short and you got to take every moment as it comes,’ this really puts it in perspective.”

The danger of Emerson’s job was always at the back of Ross’s mind, but for Emerson, it was a calling. 

In the summertime, Emerson would go to fires in the Interior to fall danger trees. “I have pictures of him literally with a fire right in front of him and he’s falling a tree,” said Ashley. He was at the Elaho Valley fire in 2015 and the Williams Lake fire a couple of years later.

“All the young guys would be there and they would all come to him and ask him questions because he’d been falling for so long,” said Ashely. 

As a good home mechanic, working at the Halfmoon Bay property he’d bought at 19, logged himself and had paid off by 25, Emerson always had a project car on the go. He would also fix other people’s cars. “He was somebody that you could just go over and say hey, 'I need some help' and he would help,” said Rory. 

Emerson had a sentimental side, said Ashley. “He’d rather get something you made him than something you bought him.”

And he doted on the Stafford terrier, Sako, Ross and he shared. (“Though he’d never admit it,” said Ross.)

Hunting, ATVing, camping, hiking – Emerson spent a lot of time outdoors. And he was good with his hands, “He would build almost anything out of wood and give them to friends and people that he loves for free just as gifts,” said Rory. 

And in for an adventure – “If you wanted to go hike the biggest mountain, he’d be right there behind you,” said Ashley. 

It’s not just in his friends and family that Emerson’s legacy will live on. Visitors to the backwoods may every once in a while come across a bench with a “D” carved into it. “His benches are everywhere around on the Coast,” said Ashley. He wouldn’t want people to know where they are, they’re tucked in behind lakes and back roads, “Just to have there. He always built stuff like that."