Ceiling collapse at the Val-d’Or Quality Inn injures two Cree guests

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Photo by Bruce R.R. Matthew

Photo by Bruce R.R. Matthew

What began as a quiet morning at Val-d’Or’s Quality Inn Hotel July 7 abruptly turned chaotic for two Crees when a hallway ceiling near the lobby unexpectedly collapsed on top of them.

Robbie Tapiatic and Stella Masty Bearskin, both from Chisasibi, had just run into each other at the partly Cree-owned hotel. Things seemed normal as they chatted, when there was a sudden cracking sound and a large section of ceiling came crashing down.

“I screamed, time just seemed to stand still,” said Masty Bearskin. “I was in complete and utter shock. I couldn’t respond to people talking at first, but I could hear them. It took a while to react.”

Hotel management said the incident involved a section of ceiling 3 feet wide and 21 feet long. It covered an entire section of the hallway. The falling debris included a wooden frame, moulding, wires and tiles.

“I remember Robbie grabbing my arm,” Masty Bearskin said. “I don’t know if I was about to fall or not, but one of the Elders came out and pulled the debris from my face and head, dusted me off and hugged me. I saw the look of concern in their eyes.”

That concern, Masty Bearskin says, did not seem to be shared by the hotel’s staff.  She alleges that the manager’s initial reaction was to voice his need to call the hotel’s insurance company. When Masty Bearskin asked the staff for ice to reduce the swelling on her head, she did not receive any.

“It was only a few minutes later that the manager asked us if we were okay. After, he asked me if I needed to go to the hospital. I don’t even remember answering him, I was in shock and on the brink of tears.”

Masty Bearskin said she had pain in her elbow, ears and foot, as well as cuts from the falling metal and glass. Tapiatic and Masty Bearskin headed to the hospital to receive medical attention. She was diagnosed with a mild concussion.

The Quality Inn, which is partially owned by CREECO, has won numerous hospitality awards and is considered by many Crees to be a home away from home in Val-d’Or. Hotel Manager Michael Prince says that the clients’ safety was the top concern when the accident occurred.

“The hotel sincerely apologizes to everyone that was affected by the accident,” Prince told the Nation. “What’s most important to us is that our clients are safe and taken care of.”

Prince says engineers were called in immediately after the collapse to identify the cause of the accident and ensure that there were no structural issues with any of the building’s other ceilings. He says the cause of the collapse was determined to be faulty installation when the hotel was built four years ago. It has been identified as an isolated case.

At press time, Masty Bearskin had plans to see two additional specialists to assess the extent of her injuries. She has not decided whether she will return to stay at the Quality Inn.

“It was always my first choice (in Val-d’Or),” she said. “The people at the front desk were always very kind to me, they knew me by my first name, so I would really have to think about that.”

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