Tagish loses community leader

Tagish has lost its fire chief. Kurt Gantner, 49, died only a kilometre from the volunteer fire station yesterday. "On Monday night there was a fire," said volunteer firefighter Boyd Pyper.

Tagish has lost its fire chief.

Kurt Gantner, 49, died only a kilometre from the volunteer fire station yesterday.

“On Monday night there was a fire,” said volunteer firefighter Boyd Pyper. “We lost a house. He worked until the wee hours and then was relieved.

“He took a couple of hours off, got some sleep, and then I guess he was on his way to meet with the fire marshall, probably at the site, and he died.”

Gantner was driving the fire station’s pickup truck that had been modified to help in brush fires, said Pyper.

Returning to the site, Gantner was in single-vehicle crash.

“The truck sped off into the bush,” said Pyper, noting Gantner was found slumped over the wheel.

The cause of death cannot be confirmed until an autopsy is performed, the Yukon coroner’s office said today.

The community is mourning.

“He was very engaged in the community,” said Pyper. “He will be sorely missed. A huge loss – huge loss.”

Gantner, a German citizen who came to Tagish with his wife, fell in love with the community, said Pyper.

Gantner was the postmaster and also ran the Tagish Store Cafe Motel and RV Park, said Pyper.

Taking on a leadership role seemed natural for him, said Pyper, adding Gantner was a friend and mentor to many in the community.

“He was a very good person,” said Pyper. “He was my chief.”

The community is still discussing arrangements with the family about holding a celebration of life.

No details were available at press time. (Roxanne Stasyszyn)