The Council of the Haida Nation is warning people to avoid an area with a hidden cliff near the Kaisun/Ḵaysuun village site in Engelfield Bay. The area is within Daawuuxusda, a co-managed Haida heritage site and BC Parks conservancy on the west coast of Moresby Island, and the co-ordinates are roughly 53°02.14 N, 132° 27.49 W. (Council of the Haida Nation)

Cliff fall sparks joint safety review by Parks Canada, CHN

Parks Canada and the Council of the Haida Nation are jointly investigating a cliff fall that seriously injured a local Gwaii Haanas employee in September.

Tauren Collinson is a Gwaii Haanas resource management technician with years of field experience. During a major deer eradication last year, he was among four Gwaii Haanas staff who got specialized training from U.S. and New Zealand experts in restoring the islands ecosystems.

On the night of Sept. 29, Collinson was working outside Gwaii Haanas as part of a CHN Protected Areas team tasked with similar work near the west coast of Moresby Island. The group was culling invasive raccoons around Englefield Bay in an effort to protect local seabirds.

Walking along a slope above the beach east of the Kaysuun/Kaisun village site, Collinson slipped and fell more than 10 metres from a cliff hidden by vegetation. The fall left him partially paralyzed.

“It’s been an extremely difficult time for Tauren and his family in particular, and for all his friends and colleagues,” said Ernie Gladstone, superintendent for Gwaii Haanas.

As important as the investigation is, Gladstone said their first priority is supporting Collinson and his family as best they can.

“Tauren’s got a long road ahead of him, and he’s going to need support from us and from the community,” he said.

Gladstone said Parks Canada and the Haida Nation are working closely to understand exactly what happened on Sept. 29, and what they can learn to avoid a similar accident in the future.

Safety is always a serious concern for Gwaii Haanas staff, Gladstone said.

Any time a field crew heads out, they start with a 15- or 20-minute safety talk — a “tailgate” meeting — to review potential hazards and the safe-work practices for everything from using chainsaws to running boats to hiking in difficult terrain. If anything does go wrong, there is a follow-up review of safety procedures the same day.

Gladstone was among the many colleagues of Tauren Collinson who volunteered at an Oct. 19 community event in Skidegate that raised nearly $44,000 to support him and his family. Among other fundraisers, local fisherman Mike Meegan has also raised $12,655 raffling a fishing trip.

Anyone who who like to help will find an ongoing Fundraiser for Tauren page at www.gofundme.com, and a Northern Savings Credit Union account set up for Collinson and his family at 7424864.

“All of Haida Gwaii is rallying behind Tauren and his family right now,” Gladstone said.

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