North Okanagan crane company closes, says tragic Kelowna accident a blow to entire industry

Crane firm closes doors

One of the largest crane companies in B.C.'s Southern Interior has ceased operations.

The North Okanagan's Armstrong Crane & Rigging has sold off its fleet, and a spokesperson says the owners of the family business are considering their future.

Operations manager Greg Nachtegaele says the tragic crane collapse in Kelowna last year was "a real turning point for us and the entire industry."

That incident claimed five lives when a Stemmer Construction crane collapsed during disassembly at a downtown Kelowna highrise project.

The incident shook the industry and remains under investigation.

Armstrong had been in business for 25 years.

A message on the company's voicemail says: "We wish to inform you we no longer provide crane services as we have shut down our operations... We thank you so much for the work in the past."

Nachtegaele says health considerations were among the reasons for the closure, which affects fewer than 10 people.

The brothers plan to resurface in an as yet unknown business venture.

"We're waiting for the dust to settle," said Nachtegaele, thanking the community for their support over the years.

"We're thinking maybe we'll do something different."

He said the industry is changing and it has become harder to get qualified employees. Sacrificing safety or quality was not an option, he added.

"We will not sacrifice the safety of our customers, operators, or related personnel to provide the best service around," the company's website says.

The company lifted everything from modular homes, to heavy machinery and sensitive computer equipment.

Earlier this year, it lifted five new tanks into place at Vernon's Okanagan Spring Brewery, each capable of holding 1,500 hectolitres of beer.

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