Residents display high-visibility safety gear to mourn victims of B.C. crane collapse

·3 min read

KELOWNA, B.C. — Photos of bright yellow and orange safety shirts or vests hanging on front stoops or in windows are spreading across social media as communities in B.C.'s Okanagan Valley mourn the deaths of five men killed when a crane collapsed at a construction site.

The photos shared using the hashtag #KelownaStrong show residents and construction-sector businesses in Kelowna and nearby Salmon Arm, B.C., are using the high-visibility gear to show support for the families of those killed on Monday.

The RCMP have said four of the men killed were working at the site where a 25-storey residential tower has been under construction, while the body of a fifth man was recovered early Wednesday from the rubble of a neighbouring building.

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

Kim Savage posted a photo of two vests hanging at The Ensuite, a showroom for EMCO plumbing and heating supplies in Salmon Arm and says the Stemmer family is fairly well known in the close-knit community.

Calls to Stemmer's office have not been answered this week.

The Mounties have not released the names of the men killed.

Another man was released from hospital after being treated for minor injuries.

The collapse knocked out power for most of Kelowna's downtown core and prompted an evacuation order that remains in effectfor some nearby properties.

The Central Okanagan Emergency Operations centre posted an update on Wednesday saying the order has been rescinded for a number of nearby addresses, but it remains in effect for other homes and businesses.

The centre says it could take several days for the order to be fully rescinded once the remaining part of the crane is removed and the area is deemed safe.

David Boone, an assistant fire chief and the leader of the specialized search and rescue team from Vancouver that recovered the man's body from the neighbouring building, said earlier in the day that parts of the crane were still at risk of collapse.

The BC Coroners Service, the RCMP and WorkSafeBC, the provincial safety agency for workers, are each conducting investigations into the fatal incident.

The collapse spurred a local union representing B.C. construction workers to call on municipalities and the provincial government to strengthen regulations and training for workers involved in the assembly and dismantling of tower cranes.

A statement released Wednesday by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115, based in Burnaby, B.C., says its members have lobbied for years for improved safety standards and mandatory tower crane operator certification.

There are 200 tower cranes operating throughout B.C. and their assembly and dismantling is largely done under tight timelines in high-traffic areas, it says.

The RCMP said Tuesday that the crane collapsed while it was being dismantled.

Labour Minister Harry Bains says it would be inappropriate for the government to presuppose the cause while investigations into the collapse are ongoing.

"Once we have those findings and understand the cause of this incident, the province will be able to take appropriate action toward ensuring something like this does not happen again," Bains said in a statement on Wednesday.

Crane operators must have a valid certificate and their certification is administered through the BC Association for Crane Safety, according to the WorkSafeBC website.

There is no additional certification required to assemble or disassemble cranes. Instead, WorkSafeBC requires that work is done by people qualified under occupational health and safety regulations for cranes and hoists, in accordance with the instructions of the crane manufacturer or a professional engineer.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 14, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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