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'Giving, caring' Pereman remembered fondly

Memorial planned this afternoon for Squamish resident who died in fall last weekend

A Squamish man who died in a fall while working at a local business on the weekend was "a very giving, caring, fun-loving" man as well as being "about as good as they get" as a husband and father, a close family friend said this week.

Andrew Pereman, 37, died of injuries he sustained when he fell about six metres (20 feet) through the roof of a building known as the Garden Centre on Mamquam Road on Saturday (Feb. 4), Jason Merriam, a friend and family spokesman, said on Monday (Feb. 6).

A memorial for Pereman, who leaves behind wife Natalie and daughters Montana, 5, and Paisley, 2, is planned on Friday (Feb. 10) at 3 p.m. at the West Coast Railway Heritage Park's CN Roundhouse and Conference Centre.

Andrew Pereman was setting up scaffolding and planking above the Garden Centre greenhouse's plexiglass roof in preparation for pressure washing it when a section of the roof gave way and he landed on the cement floor below, Merriam said.

Natalie Pereman was in the process of purchasing the property and was most of the way through rezoning and Official Community Plan (OCP) amendments, with plans to revamp the business to include not only a garden centre but a grocery store with a butcher, deli and fresh produce as well as kiosks for local producers to sell their wares. Andrew Pereman, who has a background in construction, was working with his wife and others to prepare the facility for a re-opening in March or early April, Merriam said.

Merriam, an electrician who had planned to begin working on the project in the next couple of weeks, said Natalie Pereman was just returning from picking up pizza for lunch when the tragedy occurred.

"[Andrew] lost his balance and fell through the roof there," Merriam said.

"There was a labourer who was there who came running to Natalie to say that Andrew had fallen."

Merriam said family friend Don Bakes, who has paramedic training, was on the scene almost immediately and phoned both an ambulance and a helicopter, knowing that a helicopter evacuation to Vancouver might be needed.

"There was no time wasted on anyone's behalf. Everything that was done was done as soon as possible," Merriam said.

When paramedics arrived, Andrew Pereman was unconscious with no pulse, but the paramedics managed to establish vital signs before moving him for evacuation to Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), Merriam said.

Tom St-Laurent, the on-duty superintendent from the B.C. Ambulance Service, told The Chief that the call was received at 12:30 p.m., with the helicopter touching down on the Mamquam Elementary School field - the nearest possible helicopter landing site -at 1:11 p.m. The helicopter arrived at VGH at 1:51 p.m., St-Laurent said.

An RCMP spokesperson confirmed that Pereman passed away sometime after arriving at VGH.

Merriam, a work buddy of Andrew Pereman who also played slopitch softball on a co-ed team with the couple, said that for the past two-plus years Andrew had been working as a foreman for Ledcor in northern B.C., building logging roads and such.

The job entailed Andrew being away for two weeks at a time and then returning to Squamish for a week, Merriam said. Andrew, though, had left that job in mid-January with the intention of working on the garden centre project and helping to run the business, he said.

"Their plan was to open up the garden centre/farmer's market and for Andrew to be home with the wife and kids," he said.

Andrew and Natalie Pereman were married in 2004. Natalie Pereman, a local entrepreneur, had taken time off work for the birth of their two children, Merriam said.

"[Andrew] was a very giving, caring, fun-loving guy, one of the most easy-going people you'd ever want to meet," Merriam said, adding that the tragedy has left Pereman's family and close friends in shock.

As a husband and father, Andrew Pereman "was about as good as they get," Merriam said. "He was always there for them -loved them more than life."

Ian Jacques, who helped recruit the Peremans to play on a co-ed softball team called The Eh Team Vancouver about eight years ago, said the news of the tragedy left him in "absolute shock."

The Eh Team, started 13 years ago by Jacques' father, is made up mostly of advertising and sales professionals. The team annually travels to the Advertising Softball World Series in the U.S.

Jacques, a former Chief reporter who is now editor of the Coast Reporter in Sechelt, described Pereman as "just a great guy, very down to earth, very likable, obviously very, very passionate about Nat - I mean, they were perfect together. Obviously he loved Nat, loved his girls... yeah, just a heart of gold. Whatever you needed, Andrew would do it for you."

WorkSafe B.C. and the B.C. Coroner's Service are investigating the cause of the accident. Donna Freeman, media relations director with WorkSafe B.C., said the aim of such investigations is not to affix blame but to determine a cause to prevent similar occurrences in the future and to determine whether there were any violations of health and safety regulations that may have contributed to the accident.

Andrew Pereman had signed an organ donor card and as per his wishes, some of his organs will be used to help save the lives of others, Merriam said.

The family has asked those wishing to honour Pereman to please refrain from sending flowers. Merriam said a trust fund to support Montana and Paisley was being established at the local branch of the Bank of Nova Scotia. Those wishing to donate should contact the bank for details.

With files from Ben Lypka, The Chief