BURNABY, B.C. – The International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 115, which represents hundreds of crane operators across British Columbia, wants answers for the families of five individuals who died after a crane collapsed in Kelowna in July 2021.
IUOE Local 115 said in a news release an RCMP investigation has still not been completed while a parallel WorkSafeBC investigation has been completed but the results not released.
“Each year dozens of new crane operators are certified to run huge equipment and yet after a serious accident, neither WorkSafeBC nor the RCMP have released the results of their investigations. We need to know what went wrong, how to fix it and what to teach apprentice crane operators to do differently. Lives are at stake on these results,” IUOE Local 115 business manager Brian Cochrane said in a statement.
Cailen Vilness, Jared Zook, Eric Stemmer and Patrick Stemmer were working on a 25-storey tower development construction project when the crane collapsed on July 21, 2021. A fifth person, Brad Zawislak, was also killed.
The RCMP and WorkSafeBC soon began independent parallel investigations with the RCMP investigation focused on criminal responsibility and the WorkSafeBC effort aimed at determining the cause of the collapse, ensuring enforcement action and incorporating anything learned into future safety improvements.
But Cochrane said the union should play a bigger role in ensuring future crane operations are safe.
“Any efforts to improve crane safety initiatives, especially as it relates to tower crane assembly and disassembly, should involve IUOE Local 115, as we are the leading trainers and experts on crane safety,” Cochrane said.
The union also said there is a history of employers not being held criminally responsible in B.C., citing a WorkSafeBC investigation of two mill explosions in northern B.C. in 2012 and the Sam Fitzpatrick case, where the worker was killed at a workplace incident in Toba Inlet and the Crown Counsel dropped charges after a 10-year investigation.
“No one was held responsible in either case and this should not happen to the five families mourning those lost in the Kelowna crane collapse,” Cochrane said.