Five new lawsuits filed just days before the second anniversary of deadly Kelowna crane collapse

New crane collapse lawsuits

A series of new lawsuits have been filed in connection with the deadly 2021 crane collapse in downtown Kelowna.

They were filed just days before the second anniversary of the disaster that killed five people; four crane workers, and a man who was working in an office next door.

The latest lawsuit was filed today in the Vancouver court registry. Shelby Austin Miller is suing Stemmer Construction Ltd., which was dismantling the crane when it fell. He’s also suing multi-national construction equipment manufacturer Liebherr International, which designed and built the crane, and four unnamed people and two unnamed companies that were responsible for managing the construction site.

Miller, a construction operations manager, was working in his offices at 1461 St. Paul Street on the morning of July 12, 2021. He watched as the ceiling and crane collapsed on top of his co-worker Brad Zawislak, 43, killing the other man. Miller narrowly escaped, but was showered with debris, suffering small lacerations and significant bruising.

Three other lawsuits target Stemmer Construction and developer the Mission Group, the lead developer of the site. Grant Maddock, Zawislak’s employer and the owner and landlord of 1461 St. Paul Street, the Courtyard offices, is suing along with Courtyard tenants, lawyer Christopher Fraser and beauty salon owner Kelly-Ann Kreutzel.

Maddock says he was working in his offices in the Courtyard when he looked out the window and saw three workers from the Brooklyn tower at the Bernard Block construction site next door running for safety. He then saw the tower of the crane crash into the lane behind his office. He ran out of his office to see the crane operator’s cage had come to rest where Zawislak was sitting.

The crane operator was still in the cage and badly injured. Maddock and another one of his employees attempted to provide first aid to the operator. He also frantically searched for Zawislak. He later learned that Brad had died, crushed by the cage.

The lawsuit says Maddock had to stay at the scene and deal with emergency officials and city officials, and having to wait to find out who survived and who did not. He is seeking damages for, among other things, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety and expenses incurred from the damage to his building and loss of employment.

Fraser was trapped under his desk in his law office when the crane collapsed. He managed to escape the rubble, but when he went back to his office a few days later to collect legal documents, he found a shoe on his desk and other evidence confirming that someone in the office above him had died.

Fraser claims he has suffered headaches, cuts and bruises, post-traumatic stress disorder and damage to his lungs from asbestos and silica in the dust from the debris.

Kreutzer was not at her salon at 1461 St. Paul Street at the time of the tragedy. However, because tenants could not move back in until December 2022, nearly 18 months later, she was forced to operate her business out of her home. She ended up closing her salon location at 1461 St. Paul Street. Kreutzer is claiming, among other things, loss of economic opportunity and loss of clientele.

A fifth plaintiff that filed suit Monday was Carmel Housing Society, which owns Carmel Court at 1450 Bertram Street. The suit claims that Carmel Court was damaged by the falling crane. Carmel Housing Society is suing Stemmer, Mission Group, MGC Contractors and other unnamed contractors, engineers and architects.

The flurry of claims comes in just under the limitation period for civil lawsuits in B.C., which is generally two years from the day of the incident.

Earlier this year, Zawislak’s widow also filed suit. Helen Margaret Furuya named Stemmer Construction as well as four John Does, a Jane Doe and two unnamed companies.

Furuya claims the loss of her husband deprived her of “his love, guidance, care, services, training and financial support.”

Also killed two years ago were four young construction workers — Cailen Vilness, Jared Zook, and Patrick and Eric Stemmer.

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