Memorial marks one-year anniversary of Kelowna crane collapse

Memorial for crane collapse

Madison Erhardt

UPDATE: 1:45 p.m.

Three independent parallel investigations continue into the deadly crane collapse that killed five people one year ago downtown Kelowna.

A memorial was held Tuesday that was attended by hundreds of community members, dignitaries and family and friends of the victims were in attendance.

“My son is gone because of pressure, because of timelines, because of budget and I don’t have the exact cause, but I also do know what my son went through,” said Danielle Pritchett, mother of Cailen Vilness.

Vilness was one of the four young construction workers killed when a crane collapsed while it was being taken down. The crane boom struck another building, beside the high-rise, killing another man who was working in the building.

In addition to Vilness, Jared Zook, and brothers Patrick and Eric Stemmer died while working on-site while a fifth victim, Brad Zawislak, was crushed and killed when the crane hit the building next door.

WorkSafe BC says their investigation is ongoing but is nearing the end.

“The primary purpose of the WorkSafe BC investigation is to identify what caused this incident including the contributing factors. As you have heard our investigation is still underway, but we are getting very close to completion and I am very pleased to say the majority of the work has been done,” said Jessica Berglund, director of OHS Investigations for WorkSafe BC, at the memorial.

It was an emotional day for the parents of Jared Zook as they addressed the crowd during the memorial.

“Jared filled a spot that no one else can fill. How Jared made people feel, seen and valued by taking the time for the one and nothing like Jared’s laugh,” said mother Pamela Zook.

Cailen Vilness father Chris Vilness says he is working with the City of Kelowna to put together a permanent memorial site downtown to remember his son and the four others that lost their lives.

“We are hoping sooner rather than later. We don’t want to wait years. We would like to see something. We need a place to go. There is a plaque on the Brooklyn tower, but it is not a place for the families to go and find a bit of peace and remember our men,” he said.

At this time it is unknown when the three investigations will be complete.

ORIGINAL: 8:30 a.m.

Today marks the grim anniversary of the crane collapse downtown Kelowna on July 12, 2021.

Kelowna RCMP tells Castanet that they are continuing to investigate the deadly collapse that resulted in five fatalities.

Tragedy struck while workers dismantled a tower crane at a construction site on Bernard Avenue and St. Paul Street in Kelowna.

Cailen Vilness, Jared Zook, and brothers Patrick and Eric Stemmer died while working on-site while Brad Zawislak, was crushed and killed when the crane hit the building next door.

“The criminal investigation has been turned over to a dedicated team within the Kelowna RCMP Serious Crimes Unit. This investigation is separate from the regulatory investigation being conducted by WorkSafeBC,” said a news release from RCMP.

Insp. Beth McAndie, Investigative Services Officer for Kelowna RCMP called the investigation "complex" and "one of the largest workplace fatalities in BC’s history. There is a significant amount of technical evidence for my team to analyze.”

On Monday, WorksafeBC indicated they have examined all relevant documentation and other evidence, in addition to conducting witness interviews but have no estimate on how much longer it will take to complete the task.

The North Okanagan Labour Council is holding an hour of remembrance today to commemorate the five lives lost.

The event will start at 10:00 a.m.

The memorial ceremony will take place at the intersection of Bernard and St. Paul Street. A moment of silence will be held at the time the accident occurred one year ago.

Mayor Colin Basran, Kelowna city councillors and WorksafeBC representatives will be speaking.

Madison Erhardt

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