OHS Canada Magazine

RCMP ask prosecutors to consider charge in fatal B.C. crane collapse that killed 5

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February 20, 2024
By The Canadian Press

Health & Safety

A worker looks on as a police officer investigates a collapsed construction crane resting on the building it damaged in Kelowna, B.C., Monday, July 12, 2021. Mounties say they have asked prosecutors to consider charges in the collapse of the crane that killed five people. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alistair Waters

Mounties say they have asked prosecutors to consider charges in the collapse of a construction crane that killed five people in Kelowna, B.C., in July 2021. Police say a report has been submitted to the BC Prosecution Service for charge assessment of criminal negligence causing death.

The crane was being dismantled when it fell, killing four men on the site and a fifth man in a neighbouring building.

Construction workers Cailen Vilness, Jared Zook and brothers Patrick and Eric Stemmer died at the scene, and Brad Zawislak was killed while working in a nearby office when part of the crane crashed into his building.

The union representing 13,000 British Columbia workers including commercial crane operators says the recommendation gives workers “some confidence” steps are being taken to answer the questions of what happened in the incident.

Josh Towsley with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115 says the crane collapse was a “stark reminder” of the dangers faced by workers during crane disassembly and other duties of the occupation in general.


“My initial thoughts, of course, turn to the families of the of the five people that died,” Towsley says.

“But our industry in general are one step closer to getting the answers that you know that everybody deserves, on what happened that day and what caused the deaths of five people.”

The fatal collapse has spawned a number of lawsuits involving Stemmer Construction, the operator of the crane, and multiple divisions of the Liebherr Corporation that manufactured the heavy equipment.

In one lawsuit filed in July 2023, Stemmer is alleging Liebherr’s crane and related manuals may have “contained a dangerous defect, which led to the accident.”

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Mounties say the investigation was extremely complex and needed to be done methodically and thoroughly to protect the integrity of the case.

Kelowna RCMP Supt. Kara Triance says the investigation included dozens of police officers and countless hours of evidence-gathering and analysis.

“The gravity of this incident and the associated work to understand what happened has been tremendous. We will work to support our partners and our community through the next steps.”

The crane’s fall knocked out power to most of Kelowna’s downtown core and forced an evacuation of the area as the city declared a state of local emergency.

An evacuation order for nearby residents was lifted a week after the collapse.


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