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Questions linger nearly one year after deadly Kelowna crane collapse

Russell Hixson
Questions linger nearly one year after deadly Kelowna crane collapse
@MIDNIGHTRIDER98 — One year later, investigators are still working to determine what caused a deadly crane collapse at a Kelowna construction site.

One year after a crane collapsed at a Kelowna construction site killing five people, the cause still has yet to be determined.

On the morning of July 12, 2021, there was catastrophic failure that caused a crane to fall during the dismantling process at the Brooklyn tower portion of the Bernard Block development in Kelowna.

“Hopefully there is some closure for the families and friends and for construction workers who work near cranes,” said Jason Wickner, who was close friends with collapse victim Eric Stemmer. “We need to know what happened and know that it won’t happen again.”

The pair met in Grade 8 and were in each other’s wedding parties. Wickner said he is eager to hear the results of the investigation.

This month Wickner and some friends met up at favourite cabin spot to remember their friend.

“It’s an ongoing thing we are going to be burdened with for a long time,” he said.

Wickner is still surprised new cranes went up in the wake of the incident to continue work despite the cause of the collapse being undetermined.

Mission Group, the developer of the project, has noted in the past that the Bernard Block project consists of three separate towers: Brooklyn, Bertram and The Block. The new cranes that went up are on Bertram and The Block, not Brooklyn where the deadly collapse occurred.

WorkSafeBC explained the investigation is ongoing and the results will be released to the public once completed.

Officials stated the primary purpose of a WorkSafeBC investigation is to identify the cause of the incident, including any contributing factors, so that similar incidents can be prevented from happening in the future.

“Over the last year, WorkSafeBC has been working with subject-matter experts and engineers to examine the crane components, sequence of events, and work procedures that took place during the crane dismantling process,” said Craig Fitzsimmons, WorkSafeBC director of government and media relations. “WorkSafeBC investigators have also examined all relevant documentation and other evidence, in addition to conducting witness interviews.”

He added incident investigations are in-depth and the amount of time an investigation takes to complete is directly related to its complexity.

Mission Group announced it plans to remember and pay tribute to the four construction workers and office worker killed in the incident — brothers Eric and Patrick Stemmer, Jared Zook, Cailen Vilness and Brad Zawislak.

On July 12, Mission Group will be stopping work on all its construction sites from 10:45 to 11:15 a.m. in remembrance of the crane incident. There will be with five air horn blasts, followed by a moment of silence. 

Earlier this year, Mission Group placed a memorial plaque on the site where the crane once stood, dedicated to the victims.

“While this will be a private recognition for our crews to remember their colleagues, we have invited family members to join us at the memorial plaque installed where the crane once stood to spend private time remembering their loved ones,” said the company in a press release.     

The developer added it is working with the families of the victims and other community partners to create a lasting memorial. A public installation will be planned at a later date.

“Given the impact of this incident to our city and industry, we’ve invited neighbouring builders in Kelowna with onsite cranes to join us with the same recognition on their sites at 11 a.m. on July 12,” added the company.

Follow the author on Twitter @RussellReports.

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