RCMP say four men were killed when a crane collapsed at a work site in Kelowna, B.C., on Monday, with a fifth man buried in the rubble and presumed dead.
Police confirmed the fatalities at a news conference on Tuesday.
“Yesterday was a tragic day,” said RCMP Insp. Adam MacIntosh. “To see all those workers standing there, knowing they had just lost some of their friends and co-workers, and to see the families and what they were dealing with, I can only imagine what they’re going through.”
The crane collapsed at the Brooklyn building on Bernard Street in downtown Kelowna around 10:45 a.m. PT on Monday. The building is under construction, and MacIntosh said workers were preparing to dismantle the crane when something “catastrophic” happened.
The upper portion of the yellow crane smashed into a neighbouring office building as well as a seniors’ home.
MacIntosh said the four men confirmed dead were subcontractors working on site. The crane’s operator is believed to be among those killed.
The fifth man presumed dead was working in the office building next door and wasn’t associated with the construction project. He remains buried in the debris.
RCMP said officers will be working to recover the man’s body on Tuesday.
MacIntosh said two other people who were hospitalized after the collapse have since been released.
RCMP investigating why crane fell
Dorothy Bielecki felt the impact of the collapse from her law office facing St. Paul Street, around the corner from the collapse. She and her colleagues rushed outside to see the crane crumpled and a worker “shimmying” across the steel.
“After the crane had collapsed, one of the workers was crawling across one of the [crane] pieces to the building that was being built,” Bielecki recalled. “He made it there safely from what I saw, but I don’t know what happened to him afterward.”
RCMP and the building’s developer, Mission Group, said they do not know what caused the crane to fall.
The developer’s CEO said the company’s staff and subtrades were in a state of shock and grief counselling had been offered to anyone who needed it.
Police said a four-block perimeter around St. Paul Street, Doyle Avenue, Bertram Street and Bernard Avenue will remain cordoned off until the investigation is finished. The public is asked to stay away from the area, which is still under a formal evacuation.
The city declared a state of emergency, which will last for the next six days.
Evacuees are asked to go to the Salvation Army at 1480 Sutherland Ave., and anyone looking for someone who may be injured or unaccounted for should go to the Parkinson Recreation Centre at 1700 Parkinson Way.