OHS Canada Magazine

Specialized rescue team aims to recover man’s body after Kelowna crane collapse


KELOWNA, B.C. — A specialized team of first responders from Vancouver has arrived in Kelowna, B.C., to begin the work of trying to recover the body of a missing man under the rubble of a building next to a construction site where a crane collapsed, killing four people.

Assistant chief David Boone of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services said firefighters, paramedics, police and an engineer are part of the heavy urban rescue team, one of six such teams in Canada.

Boone, who is leading the team, said work is expected to begin Wednesday after an assessment of the site where RCMP said a crane toppled Monday from above a 25-storey residential tower under construction and crashed into a neighbouring building.

“We get briefed by the first responders that have been active on-site, we get briefed by their engineer and the engineer for the crane and we come up with an incident action plan and prepare the site for work,” he said late Tuesday.

“In regards to actual activity of any sort, breaching walls, getting into the building, a lot of work has to occur before that happens.”

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The missing man, who is presumed dead, was working in the building adjacent to the construction site and police were hoping to recover his body Tuesday, RCMP Insp. Adam MacIntosh told a news conference.

Another man who was taken to hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries has since been released, he said.

The Mounties are collaborating with the BC Coroners Service, B.C.’s worker safety agency, WorkSafeBC, the local fire department and engineers to determine what’s required to safely secure portions of the crane to recover the man’s body, he said.

Until then, a local emergency order prevents anyone from accessing the area.

Multiple fatalities after crane collapses on Kelowna construction site

The building next door housed a consulting business, MacIntosh said.

He would not speculate about the cause of the collapse but said workers were getting ready to take the crane down or were in the process of dismantling it.

“Why exactly that crane collapsed, that’s a part of the investigation,” he said. “Obviously, something catastrophic occurred.”

The RCMP are investigating to ensure the collapse was not criminal and a WorkSafeBC investigation will also determine what occurred, he said.

One person who died had been taken to hospital, while the others died at the scene, MacIntosh said. The crane operator is believed to be among the dead, he said.

“Some of them were physically on or around the crane when it had collapsed.”

The collapse knocked out power for most of Kelowna’s downtown core and prompted an evacuation order for surrounding homes and businesses. Some people remained displaced from a seniors residence on Tuesday, MacIntosh said.

The head of Mission Group, the development company building the residential tower, said Monday that he didn’t know what caused the crane to fall.

Jonathan Friesen said the company’s staff and subtrades were in a state of shock and grief counselling had been offered to anyone who needed it.

The website for Stemmer Construction, based in Salmon Arm, B.C., lists the tower in Kelowna as one of its current projects.

A call to Stemmer’s office about whether any of its employees were affected by the collapse went unanswered on Tuesday afternoon.

Premier John Horgan called the collapse tragic, saying it was “an event that, quite honestly, you don’t expect to happen on a sunny July day here in British Columbia.”

“Yet, it can happen,” he told a news conference. “We need to redouble our efforts on workplace safety and any of the findings that WorkSafe brings forward or the coroner brings forward, we’ll certainly be implementing right across the province.”

A Twitter post Tuesday by Prime Minister Justice Trudeau read: “My heart is in Kelowna today, with the families, friends, and colleagues of the workers who lost their lives.”

A candlelight vigil has been planned for Friday at 9 p.m. near the site of the crane collapse. The aim is to gather as close to the site as possible, organizers say, but the exact location had yet to be determined.

By Brenna Owen in Vancouver; with files from Alistair Waters in Kelowna, B.C.