KELOWNA, BC – Photos of bright yellow and orange safety shirts or vests hanging on front stairs or in windows spread across social media as communities in BC’s Okanagan Valley mourn the deaths of five men who were killed, when a crane collapsed on a construction site.
Photos shared under the hashtag #KelownaStrong show residents and construction companies in Kelowna and nearby Salmon Arm, BC, are using the high-visibility gear to aid the families of those killed on Monday.
Safety vests / jackets appear in #Kelowna as people honor the 5 men who were killed in a crane collapse. “I can’t even imagine what these families are going through,” one person told me. “It just hit me hard and I wanted to do something to show my support.” @ NEWS1130 @CityNewsVAN pic.twitter.com/vfHrL0zjMZ
– Monika Gul (@MonikaGul) July 14, 2021
According to the RCMP, four of the men killed were working on the site of a 25-story residential tower, while the body of a fifth man was recovered from the rubble of a neighboring building early Wednesday.
The Salmon Arm-based Stemmer Construction website lists the Kelowna tower as one of their projects.
Kim Savage posted a photo of two vests hanging in The Ensuite, a showroom for EMCO plumbing and heating supplies in Salmon Arm, and says the Stemmer family is quite well known in the close-knit community.
Calls to Stemmer’s office were not answered this week.
The Mounties did not publish the names of the men killed. Another man was discharged from the hospital after suffering minor injuries.
The collapse cut off power to most of downtown Kelowna and resulted in an evacuation order that remains in effect on some nearby properties.
The Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Center released an update Wednesday stating that the order has been canceled for a number of nearby addresses but remains in effect for other households and businesses.
According to the center, once the remainder of the crane is removed and the area is deemed safe, it can take several days to fully undo the order.
David Boone, an assistant fire chief and head of the specialist search and rescue team from Vancouver that recovered the man’s body from the neighboring building, said earlier in the day that parts of the crane were still in danger of collapsing.
The BC Coroners Service, the RCMP and WorkSafeBC, the provincial safety agency for workers, are all investigating the fatal incident.
The collapse prompted a local union representing BC construction workers to urge local communities and the provincial government to strengthen regulations and training for workers involved in erecting and dismantling tower cranes.
A statement released on Wednesday by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115, based in Burnaby, BC, said that its members have been campaigning for improved safety standards and mandatory certification of tower crane operators for years.
200 tower cranes are in use throughout BC, and their erection and dismantling in heavily frequented areas is largely carried out under tight deadlines.
The RCMP announced on Tuesday that the crane collapsed during dismantling.
Labor Secretary Harry Bains says it would be inappropriate for the government to presume the cause while investigations into the collapse are ongoing.
“Once we have this knowledge and understand the cause of this incident, the province can take appropriate measures to ensure that something like this does not happen again,” Bains said in a statement on Wednesday.
Crane operators must have a valid certificate and their certification is managed by the BC Association for Crane Safety according to the WorkSafeBC website.
No additional certification is required for the assembly or disassembly of cranes. Instead, WorkSafeBC requires that the work be carried out by persons who are qualified in accordance with the industrial safety regulations for cranes and hoists in accordance with the instructions of the crane manufacturer or a specialist engineer.