Jamie Lapierre: His best friend's story

When Jamie Lapierre walked into a room, he filled it. Roaring around Halifax in a yellow Mustang, the 21-year-old lived a charming and charmed life.

"He was a loud guy. When Jamie walked into the room, he was the centre of attention - just the persona of him, the way he carried himself," remembers Roger Hudson, his lifelong friend. "He lived on the edge. But when he was at work, he took it seriously."

So when Lapierre fell silent while working in the hold of a Port Hawkesbury barge during a maintenance shift in February 2000, his co-workers soon noticed. The first man who went into the hold to check on Jamie nearly died from a lack of oxygen caused by rust, the same thing that had killed Lapierre.

Jamie Lapierre's death shocked and devastated his family and friends."We were talking a week prior," remembers Hudson. 

"Jamie had been working in Cape Breton and came home on the weekends. The last conversation we had was Sunday evening when he was heading back to Port Hawkesbury. He said, 'I'll see you Friday,'" Hudson recalls.

"I did see him Friday, but it was at his wake."

In losing his best friend, Hudson also lost that youthful belief in immortality. He asked a lot more questions on job sites and stayed vigilant for dangerous situations. He started working in construction, became a journeyman gas fitter and retrained again a few years ago as a safety advisor.

Working today on the Nexan Long Lake site in Alberta's oil sands, his old friend is still with him.

"Jamie's death still affects me in my daily life. It's kind of determined my career path. Every day, I'm on work sites looking after people's safety," Hudson says. "How I try to do my work out here, it's because of the loss."

He inspects work sites, chats with the workers and ensures safety rules are being followed. He gets frustrated when workers put themselves into unsafe situations, seemingly unaware of what could happen. "It's like, man, if you only knew what situation you're putting yourself in time and time again."

Sometimes, he tells them about Jamie. More so after a video he appeared in to commemorate the annual Day of Mourning went online and was viewed coast to coast. Guys started asking him about his old friend. "It's a different form of safety. It's so deep and personal," he says.

Lapierre lived for 21 years, and died 15 years ago, but he makes the world safer today through the work of his friend.

"He's still a force. Not the force he was when he was with us, but he's still capturing people's attention. It's a positive out of a negative for sure. He's still gripping people. He's still in people's lives," Hudson says. "I think he'd be very humbled by it."