Four dead, one missing after tower crane collapse at Kelowna, B.C. construction site

kelowna crane
Images from West Kelowna Professional Firefighters Facebook page

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

Four men were killed at a Kelowna B.C. construction site on Monday when a tower crane collapsed. Kelowna RCMP reported that the tower crane was being dismantled at the site of a 25-storey downtown condominium project at the time of the collapse.

“At this time, we can confirm that four people have died as a result of this incident,” RCMP Inspector Adam MacIntosh said on Tuesday. “All four were men who were working at the site when the crane collapsed. Their bodies have been recovered and their families have been notified.”

One man was transported to hospital with non life-threatening injuries and a fifth man, who was working in an adjacent building is missing and believed to be buried under the rubble. Rescuers are working at the site to locate victim.

WorkSafeBC, the BC Coroners Service and the Kelowna RCMP are conducting concurrent investigations.

The BC Coroners Service is investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths, while the Kelowna RCMP Serious Crime Unit is investigating to determine if criminality was involved in this matter.

Photos from the scene showed the upright portion of the crane, which had been used to build the residential tower, was still standing, but that remains of its boom were strewn over several adjacent buildings. An evacuation of buildings near the site was ordered when the emergency was declared Monday evening.

According to the RCMP report, the crane collapsed just before 11 a.m., damaging a nearby office building and leaving debris on the roof of a nearby long-term-care home. Engineers have started assessing the damage to the buildings and the stability of the remaining portion of the crane.

Krista Roessing, a Kelowna resident, told the CBC that she was driving past the site at the time of the collapse.

“It looked like the crane was moving but then I realized that it wasn’t moving in a fashion where it was operating — it was coming down,” she is quoted as saying.

Jonathan Friesen, chief executive officer of the Mission Group, the real estate firm developing the property, said that victims were all sub-contractor employees.

“It doesn’t matter whose employees they were,” he said. They were on our site and as a result of their work they did lose their lives.”

Friesen spoke to reporters hours after the incident, confirming that crews were dismantling the tower crane Monday morning “and there was a terrible accident that resulted in the collapse of the boom section of the crane which fell all the way to the ground.”

“Today was a day when some people lost their lives on our construction site. Our hearts go out to the families involved. All I can do is express our heart felt condolences and sadness at what transpired today,” he said.

Calling the incident the “most serious catastrophe we have ever experienced,” Frieson said more than 100 workers were on the site when the collapse happened.

“Our corporate priority is, of course, for the safety of all of our workers and we want them to go home at the end of the day healthy and safe and that did not happen today.

“Any words I can come up with would pale in shadow of such a great loss for these families. Right now it’s about the safety and well-being of people.”

Support services are being offered to the families of victims.

Police set up a four-block perimeter and evacuated the area around St. Paul Street, Doyle Avenue, Bertram Street and Bernard Avenue, asking residents and drivers to stay away.

Police say the area will be cordoned off until the investigation is complete. Aircraft, including drones, have been banned from the area.

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