4 killed, another presumed dead in crane collapse in Kelowna, B.C.

·3 min read
A worker looks on as a police officer investigates a collapsed crane resting on the building it damaged in Kelowna, B.C., on Monday. At least four people were killed. (Alistair Waters/The Canadian Press - image credit)
A worker looks on as a police officer investigates a collapsed crane resting on the building it damaged in Kelowna, B.C., on Monday. At least four people were killed. (Alistair Waters/The Canadian Press - image credit)

RCMP say four men were killed when a crane collapsed at a work site in Kelowna, B.C., on Monday, with a fifth man buried in the rubble and presumed dead.

Police confirmed the fatalities at a news conference on Tuesday.

"Yesterday was a tragic day," said RCMP Insp. Adam MacIntosh. "To see all those workers standing there, knowing 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."

The crane collapsed at the Brooklyn building on Bernard Avenue in downtown Kelowna around 10:45 a.m. PT on Monday. The building is under construction, and MacIntosh said workers were preparing to dismantle the crane when something "catastrophic" happened.

The upper portion of the yellow crane smashed into a neighbouring office building as well as a seniors' home.

Zameer Karim/CBC
Zameer Karim/CBC

MacIntosh said the four men confirmed dead were subcontractors working on site. The crane's operator is believed to be among those killed.

The fifth man presumed dead was working in the office building next door and wasn't associated with the construction project. He remains buried in the debris.

A specialized team of first responders from Vancouver arrived in Kelowna on Tuesday to begin trying to recover the body of the missing man. The heavy urban rescue team includes firefighters, paramedics, police and an engineer.

MacIntosh said two other people who were hospitalized after the collapse have since been released.

2 brothers identified as victims

Two brothers were among the dead.

CBC News has confirmed with a direct source, and via online fundraising pages, that Eric and Patrick Stemmer both died as a result of the crane collapse.

The Stemmer family owns Stemmer Construction, where a source says the brothers worked. The Stemmer Construction website lists Brooklyn Tower in downtown Kelowna as one of its current projects.

WATCH | 2 brothers among 4 people killed in crane collapse:

A third victim has been identified by family members as 32-year-old Jared Zook, originally from Edmonton.

Zook's longtime friend Dan Johnstone described him as a "really, really tremendous man" in an interview with CBC News.

Johnstone said that his family had some financial struggles when he was growing up, but Zook was always offering to buy him french fries in the cafeteria at lunch or give him cash for the vending machines.

"I knew him a long, long time, but never once did I see him get mad, get angry," Johnstone said. "He was always just the nicest guy."


RCMP investigating

Dorothy Bielecki felt the impact of the collapse from her law office facing St. Paul Street, around the corner from the collapse. She and her colleagues rushed outside to see the crane crumpled and a worker "shimmying" across the steel.

"After the crane had collapsed, one of the workers was crawling across one of the [crane] pieces to the building that was being built," Bielecki recalled. "He made it there safely from what I saw, but I don't know what happened to him afterward."

RCMP and the building's developer, Mission Group, said they do not know what caused the crane to fall.

The developer's CEO said the company's staff and subtrades were in a state of shock and grief counselling had been offered to anyone who needed it.

Police said a four-block perimeter around St. Paul Street, Doyle Avenue, Bertram Street and Bernard Avenue will remain cordoned off until the investigation is finished. The public is asked to stay away from the area, which is still under a formal evacuation.

The city declared a state of emergency, which will last for the next six days.

Evacuees are asked to go to the Salvation Army at 1480 Sutherland Ave., and anyone looking for someone who may be injured or unaccounted for should go to the Parkinson Recreation Centre at 1700 Parkinson Way.

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