Victim of Vancouver parking deck collapse identified as 40-year-old employee of pastry business

·2 min read
Benjamin Sotelo, the victim of a parking lot roof collapse last Thursday in Vancouver, is seen in an undated photograph. (Submitted by Humberto Sotelo - image credit)
Benjamin Sotelo, the victim of a parking lot roof collapse last Thursday in Vancouver, is seen in an undated photograph. (Submitted by Humberto Sotelo - image credit)

Close relatives have confirmed that Benjamin Sotelo, 40, was the man found dead under the rubble of a rooftop parking deck that collapsed in East Vancouver Thursday.

"We are broken in pieces," the victim's older brother, Humberto Sotelo, said Sunday. "We just came from Mexico yesterday to recover my brother."

Humberto Sotelo said Benjamin loved to travel and was living out his dream in Canada with his husband after becoming a Canadian citizen.

Benjamin Sotelo's body was recovered at around 5:45 p.m. on Friday, after a search that stretched over two days.

Sotelo said his brother was the regional manager of human resources for Gizella Pastry, a business at the scene of the parking-deck collapse. He had been living in B.C. for about six years, his brother said.

WorkSafeBC is investigating what caused the fatal workplace incident. Roughly 50 personnel were involved in a search operation that saw eight other people pulled safely from the building.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Fire officials said the collapse happened while a skid-steer loader was working on the roof of the building on Lougheed Highway around 1 p.m. on Thursday. The loader and its driver fell along with the roof, leaving a hole about nine by 12 metres in size.

Two of the eight people rescued were taken to hospital. One of them has been confirmed as the driver of the loader, said fire department spokesperson Trevor Connelly.

Aside from the heavy machinery, crews have no other information on a possible cause, said Karen Fry, chief of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.

"That's that we've been told, is that they were working on that area and a [skid-steer loader] went through the building," said Fry.

Jon Hernandez/CBC News
Jon Hernandez/CBC News

'Difficult to accept'

Humberto Sotelo said his brother had a lot of friends and loved to visit restaurants during his travels.

"Our telephone is full of messages of his friends," he said. "I appreciate all the calls, all the messages."

"I want to say thank you to the rescue workers, all the firefighters, all the police that was working in my brother's rescue," he added. "The first hours were very difficult but we appreciate the work they did."

Sotelo said the family is working on the next steps with the coroner but hopes to get answers and accountability for Benjamin's death and the state of the building that collapsed.

"He was always smiling," he said. "We want to know who's responsible for this. We want to know why this happened."

"It's so difficult for us, so difficult to accept it."

Submitted by Humberto Sotelo
Submitted by Humberto Sotelo
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