Multiple dead in crane collapse downtown Kelowna

4 dead in collapse: father

Rob Gibson

UPDATE 8:15 p.m.

It's a parent's worst nightmare, one an Edmonton couple is living through as they sit by the phone for word on their son.

The couple, who Castanet will not identify, received word earlier today the crane their son was working on in downtown Kelowna, had collapsed. They don't know anything else.

"The only thing that we know is basically what everybody else knows, is that at this point they seem to have four fatalities. We have heard the names of two, but we don't know the names of the others," the father told Castanet.

"We heard through a different source who two of the people were, and neither one of them are our son. There are two people who supposedly have not been identified."

Police have so far not confirmed a number of fatalities in Monday's incident, only saying "multiple people" were killed and that they were working to confirm the identities of all the victims.

The father said they just want to know the fate of their son and the worst part is waiting, not knowing.

"It's pushing nine hours, so you would think by now there would be some way, and some answers available to us."

He says he has been in communication with Emergency Services through the RCMP throughout the day. They have not yet heard from the company. At this point, he says, all they can do is hope.

Castanet will continue to update this story as information becomes available.

UPDATE 6:35 p.m.

The CEO of the company developing the site where a crane collapsed downtown Kelowna on Monday morning called the incident the “most serious catastrophe” they have ever experienced.

CEO of the Mission Group Jon Friesen held a media availability Monday evening, but could offer few details beyond what has already been released by the RCMP.

"A tragedy that we should keep in mind, today was a day where some people lost their lives on our construction site. Our hearts go out to the families involved,” Friesen said.

He said the crane that collapsed was not owned by the Mission Group and was in the process of being dismantled by the subtrade owner when it fell.

He said the employees that were killed were not Mission Group employees.

“That does not change the fact that people died today, so let’s all keep that in mind. It doesn’t matter whose employees they were. They were on our site and as a result of their work, they did lose their lives,” he said.

When asked to characterize the incident, he could only call it “tragic.”

“Anytime someone dies when they go to work, it’s hard to imagine there would be any other word to describe it,” he said. “Our whole team, the Mission Group staff and all of our sub trades are in a state of shock today.”

Friesen would not say who owned the crane, noting that next-of-kin notifications are still taking place. Castanet has reached out to the company that owned the crane and is also withholding the name until we can confirm that families of the victims have been contacted by authorities.

Friesen was unable to provide details on injuries or fatalities beyond that there were “multiple fatalities.”

Harry Bains, B.C. Minister of Labour issued a statement on the incident.

"Every worker has the right to return home safely at the end of the day, and I feel awful for the loved ones and colleagues impacted by this tragedy,” Bains said.

"All workers have the right to a safe and healthy workplace - even one injury or death is too many. This is a heartbreaking reminder that we must strive to ensure the safety of all workers to prevent incidents like this from happening.

"I thank the emergency personnel and investigators now on scene. Agencies including WorkSafeBC, the BC Coroners Service and the RCMP are now investigating. We will have more to say as further details become available."

UPDATE 5:05 p.m.

The Kelowna RCMP have now said there were “multiple fatalities” in the crane collapse.

"Not all persons have been properly identified, and so right now, all we can tell you is that there have been multiple fatalities from people in that area," Insp. Adam MacIntosh told CTV News.

Part of the crane that fell struck a nearby office building and a seniors home.

The Mission Group, the developer of the project where the crane fell, is providing a statement at 5:15 p.m. Castanet will live stream that news conference.

with files from CTV Vancouver

UPDATE 3:30 p.m.

The Kelowna RCMP says at least one person has died in the downtown crane collapse.

“At this time, we are not prepared to confirm the number of deceased and injured persons in this matter, but there is at least one fatality as a result of this incident,” said Insp. Adam MacIntosh of the Kelowna RCMP.

“We will be providing further details as soon as we are able to do so.”

Police say an evacuation order remains in place around the construction site. The BC Coroners Service and WorkSafeBC are on scene conducting their own concurrent investigation.

“This area will be cordoned off until the investigation is complete,” police said.

A notice has been issued banning aircraft including drones in the area.

UPDATE 3:10 p.m.

The City of Kelowna has declared a local state of emergency in response to Monday’s downtown crane collapse.

Evacuation orders have been issued for the following addresses:

  • 547 – 612 Bernard Ave
  • 1450 – 1488 Bertram Street
  • 1441 – 1471 St. Paul Street

Castanet has also heard from residents on Doyle Avenue who have been evacuated.

“As an evolving situation, the incident site and its surrounding area remains unsafe and unstable. Road and sidewalk closures, including barricades, are in place to ensure safety. Residents and visitors are to stay out of the area,” the Central Okanagan Regional District said in a news release.

Residents are not being allowed to return home or to their place of work. Traffic control workers brought in to block roads have been told the entire area is being shut down for at least 24 hours.

At this point, nobody knows how long the evacuation order will be in place. When a crane was damaged by a fire earlier this year in Glenmore, the area was evacuated for multiple days.

RCMP are patrolling the evacuation zone to ensure its security.

Evacuees are being told to go to the Salvation Army at 1480 Sutherland Avenue for Emergency Support Services.

There has still been no announcement on any fatalities in the collapse. BC Emergency Health Services said at least three were injured.

UPDATE 2:25 p.m.

The Mission Group has confirmed the crane that collapsed Monday morning downtown Kelowna was in the process of being dismantled.

The developer of the site at Bernard Avenue and St. Paul Street said there was a “catastrophic failure” at about 10:45 a.m. when the crane fell during the dismantling process.

“Mission Group immediately evacuated the building and emergency crews were dispatched to the site. We continue to work closely with emergency responders to assess the situation,” the company said. “We are unable to confirm the number and extent of injuries at this time.”

Mission Group says it expresses its “deepest sympathy for the families of those affected by this tragedy” and have set up support services to help those in need.

“The health and safety of our employees, trades and the community at large remain our top priority.”

UPDATE 2 p.m.

The Central Okanagan Regional District says residents near the downtown crane collapse who have been evacuated can go to the Salvation Army at 1480 Sutherland Avenue for Emergency Support Services

Separately, families of those injured or missing should go to the Parkinson Recreation Centre (McIntosh Room) at 1700 Parkinson Way, CORD said on Twitter.

Residents who live nearby say there were several people working on the crane this morning prior to its collapse. It is believed the crane was in the process of being dismantled.

BC Emergency Health Services now says three patients have been taken to hospital with one in critical condition, another seriously hurt and the third with minor injuries. The status of any fatalities remains unconfirmed.

RCMP have so far been unable to comment, beyond urging the public to avoid the entire downtown.

UPDATE 1:50 p.m.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran has offered best wishes on behalf of city council to the families of those workers impacted by Monday's crane collapse.

"We are all very shocked and saddened by this crane collapse today," Basran stated at the start of Monday's council meeting.

"We don't have all the details about what's happened and who is affected, but we know some workers were injured, and we want to join with our entire community in sending best wishes to them and their families.

"The Kelowna RCMP and the Kelowna Fire Department are working on making the accident site safe so that the evacuated people can go back home as soon as possible.

"We have been assured that information about this accident will be coming when the facts are known. Until then, our thoughts are with the workers on that job site and their families."

UPDATE 1:35 p.m.

Power has now been restored to the downtown area.

Businesses and residences near the crane remain evacuated.

It is not clear at this time how long the evacuations will be required, but earlier this year when a crane was damaged in Glenmore by a fire, it took several days for the crane to be dismantled and nearby residents were out of their homes for multiple days.

UPDATE 12:42 p.m.

BC Emergency Health Services reports that two people have been transported to hospital, including one in critical condition. The other is in stable condition with minor injuries.

BCEHS sent 12 ground ambulances to the scene, including two critical care teams. It says there could be more patients, but it does not have the final number.

Meanwhile, WorkSafeBC confirmed its prevention and investigations teams are responding to the incident.

“The purpose of our investigation is to identify the cause of the incident, including any contributing factors, so that similar incidents can be prevented from happening in the future,” WorkSafeBC spokesperson Andy Watson said in an email. “We cannot provide any additional details at this time.”

UPDATE 12:05 p.m.

The sound of saws cutting metal can be heard as rescue crews work at the site of a collapsed crane downtown Kelowna.

A high-angle rescue team from West Kelowna was called in to help with the rescue.

Electricity has been cut to thousands of customers in the downtown core. Castanet has also received reports of evacuations as far as Doyle and Bertram.

The RCMP are urging the public to avoid the entire downtown core while evacuations are underway.

“A more fulsome release with respect to the industrial accident will be disseminated once more information is available,” police said.

UPDATE 11:40 a.m.

Witnesses report seeing a man falling from the crane as it collapsed.

“I heard a lot of noise and it sounded like they were throwing, or things were coming off, and then the top expansion part came down. It all buckled and just came down,” saud Megan Ziegler, adding she saw a man fall.

“It was pretty hard to watch.”

Another witness, and former Castanet employee, Miriam Halpenny says she was working nearby when her entire building shook.

“It felt like an earthquake at first, we ran out here and we instantly saw that the crane had come down and there was debris and people running frantically,” Halpenny said.

She said she saw a man, after the crane had collapsed, climb down the centre of the crane and jump to safety in the building.

A long-line tactical fire rescue team has arrived and is now going in.

UPDATE 11:17 a.m.

Kelowna RCMP is evacuating the area around the Bernard Block crane collapse due to safety concerns. It is asking anyone who is in the area around the St. Paul Street and Bernard Avenue intersection to leave as soon as possible in a safe manner.

It is also asking the public to stay away from the area at this time.

UDPATE 11:10 a.m.

Witnesses tell Castanet at least one person has been seriously injured in the crane collapse.

Emergency crews are still responding to the scene and it is believed there may be additional patients within the building.

ORIGINAL 11 a.m.

A crane has collapsed at a downtown Kelowna construction site.

The top of the crane came down at the Bernard Block development at Bernard Avenue and St. Paul Street.

It's not known if anyone was in the crane at the time of collapse.

Emergency crews are just arriving.

Castanet has a reporter on the way to the scene.

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