The girlfriend of Chris Lawrence, the 15-year-old who lost his life in a Saturday morning workplace mishap near Drumheller, says she has lost the strongest person she knows.

17-year-old Kristina Kinder and Chris had been dating for nearly five months when she received the news of Chris’ death.

“My dad took me outside and sat me down and told me,” said Kristina. “I don’t really remember my reaction. I remember screaming and falling to the ground crying.”

“I remember running back inside and everybody crowding me and all I wanted was Chris.”

Chris, who would have celebrated his sixteenth birthday on July 21, was employed by Arjon Construction Ltd., a Calgary based company which washes and crushes gravel. The teenager had worked for the company for a month and a half, a position which, according to Kristina, was accepted out of desperation.

“We had nothing,” said Kristina. “We were living in my car. We didn’t really know what we were going to do. He took (the job) knowing that it was the only thing that would help us at the time.”

“Every time he left, I told him to be careful because I knew the dangers and the risks involved. “

On Saturday morning, Chris was working at a gravel pit at a location approximately 10 kilometres south of East Coulee, a bedroom community of Drumheller.

A friend of Kristina’s, who worked with Chris, was at the job site when the fatal accident occurred. The unidentified friend told Kristina that Chris’ vest became caught in a gravel crusher and the teenager was pulled into the machine.

Chris was pronounced dead at the scene.

“After this weekend, he was going to quit. He was going to come home because he hated being away. We were going to find a new job for him because he hated it.”

Kristina says Chris was underage for his position with Arjon Construction which carries a legal minimum age requirement of 18 years old. Kristina alleges the company turned a blind eye to the fact Chris was 15.

“They all knew,” said Kristina. “They had his SIN Card number. They had everything. He was employed. He wasn’t being paid under the table. He was an employee in their company.”

Kim Misik, a spokesperson with Occupational Health and Safety, say young people, between the ages of 15 and 18, are permitted to work construction jobs.

“Young workers are allowed to work any type of job as long as it’s not between the hours of midnight and 6:00 a.m.,” explains Misik. “We recognize that this can be work that requires special training and hazard identification. We expect all employers to put worker safety first, regardless of their age.”

Darryl Wiebe, a manager with Arjon Construction, says the incident which claimed the life of Chris Lawrence is a first in the company’s forty years in business. Wiebe says the company is grief stricken. Grief councillors are at the job site and are available to all employees.

Wiebe says he knew Chris Lawrence was young, but it was only after the fatal incident that he discovered Chris, who was training for a summer job, was 15.

Officers with Occupational Health and Safety are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Chris Lawrence.

“Our investigators are on scene and will be looking at a number of areas including hazard assessment, equipment, and training offered,” said Kim Misik.