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Monday, September 27, 2021

B.C. crane collapse: 4 men confirmed dead, 5th presumed killed at Kelowna construction site

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VANCOUVER — Mounties say at least four people have died as a result of a crane collapse in Kelowna, B.C., on Monday.

In a news conference the next day, Kelowna RCMP Insp. Adam MacIntosh said a fifth person is also believed to have died in the collapse, but his remains have not yet been recovered.

Of the four people known to have died, three died at the site and one was hospitalized, but did not survive.

The body of the fifth person is believed to be buried in the rubble. Officials are working with professionals to recover his body in a safe way, with help from WorkSafeBC, engineers and others.

Parts of the crane will have to be dismantled first, the RCMP said.

MacIntosh said all five were men, but that they will not be publicly identified by authorities at this time. Their next of kin have been notified.

Three of the four were working at the development site. The fifth person is not associated with the work being done, he said.

The RCMP said that man was working at a business in the area.

According to the developer of the project, more than 100 people had been working at the site.

“Yesterday was a tragic day. To see all those workers standing there and knowing that they had just lost some of their friends and co-workers, and to see the families and what they were dealing with, I can only imagine what they’re going through,” he said.

While his identity has not been confirmed by the RCMP, an online fundraiser suggested one of the five was Jared Zook, who was from the Edmonton area.

The Zook family declined a request from CTV News Edmonton to comment further on his death.

Another fundraiser, which a spokesperson for the website GoFundMe says has been verified, identifies two other people as brothers.

According to the page, Eric and Patrick Stemmer were among those who died. Both were fathers, the fundraiser says.

A post on a website for a business called Stemmer Construction suggests the company was involved in the building of Brooklyn Tower, where the crane collapsed. 

According to the website, the company has worked on projects throughout B.C., and “has a reputation for being precise and efficient, as well as utilizing safe work practices on each project.”

The website features photos of the construction project, including one that appears to have been taken from a crane’s boom, several storeys over the construction site.

A sixth person was taken to hospital, but they’ve since been released with non-life-threatening injuries. Police did not provide more information on those injuries.

It is not yet known what caused the top of the crane to fall and strike a neighbouring office building and a seniors’ home.

According to MacIntosh, the section of the crane that fell was near the top of the 26-storey building being constructed on the site.

Mounties said there are two investigations underway: one to ensure there’s no criminal element, and another by workplace safety officials.

Witnesses described the scene as “nearly like watching a movie,” saying they’d seen one worker shimmy across a beam to safety, and others scramble to rescue the crane’s operator.

The accident damaged several buildings in the area of Bernard Avenue and St. Paul Street, and power was knocked out in the area.

A local state of emergency was declared Monday as a result of the incident, and remained in place Tuesday morning.

The RCMP said it would be lifted when the area has been secured. At that time, those affected will be able to go in to get their cars and whatever else is needed.

Roads and sidewalks have been closed, and residents and visitors have been asked to avoid the area.

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