Kelowna RCMP confirmed Tuesday that five men died in the crane collapse accident Monday in the city’s downtown core.
The dead, who police did not publicly identify but some of whom have had Go Fund Me pages started in their names, included one man who was working in an office building beside the construction site when the crane crashed through the building.
His body was buried in the rubble and an effort was underway Tuesday to secure the site and the remaining portion of the crane so his body could be recovered.
Kelowna Insp. Adam MacIntosh said one of the men who died was on the crane when it collapsed and the four others were on the ground, including the office worker.
One of the men was rushed to Kelowna General Hospital but died later of his injuries. Three other bodies were recovered from the scene Monday morning and the fifth was buried in the rubble.
MacIntosh told the media Tuesday when the top portion of the crane fell, it smashed through the nearby office building killing the man.
He said a recovery effort was underway but the site and the remaining portion of the crane’s support tower had to be secured first. Experts were being brought in to advise on how to do that best.
He also said police were looking at bringing in an urban recovery team from Vancouver to help pull the body in the rubble. That work, he said, was expected to be complete by the end of the day.
The 26 storey-high crane was being dismantled at the time of the accident and its top portion, estimated at 30 to 40 feet tall, fell to the ground around 11 a.m. Monday, leaving a visibly buckled support tower.
“Obviously something catastrophic occurred,” said MacIntosh.
“(Monday) was a tragic day.”
While the RCMP did not immediately identify the victims, two separate Go Fund Me pages have been started in the names of three of the construction site workers who died.
Brothers Eric and Patrick Stemmer, whose family owned the crane, were remembered as husbands, fathers, sons, friends and "chosen family to so many.”
“This sudden loss is nothing short of heartbreaking,” it states on the page.
Both men were married and each had two children. One of the brothers’ wives is pregnant.
The other Go Fund Me page was opened for Jared Zook, 32, who was a rigger on the crane that fell at the back of the Brooklyn on Bernard high-rise residential tower site on St. Paul Street.
The page in his name said funds were being sought to help his parents with the cost of his funeral, lost wages and travel costs as they live in Edmonton.
"Our family is devastated by the loss of our fun, kind and loving son/brother/friend/nephew/cousin. Our lives are infinitely better for having him be a part of them. We know Jesus is wrapping his arms tightly around him right now."
Zook leaves behind a wife.
A candlelight vigil has been organized to remember the victims of the crane collapse. It will be held Friday at 9 p.m near the site of the crane collapse. Organizers say the aim is to gather as close to the site of the accident as possible but the exact location had yet to be determined Tuesday.
The area around the site remains closed to the public and MacIntosh said it would remain so until it is deemed safe to re-open it. Some area residents were evacuated as a result of the collapse and a local state of emergency was declared. MacIntosh could only say that declaration would only be lifted once it was safe to do so.
He expressed his condolences to the families of the deceased and said it was a difficult day for everyone on Monday.
“Yesterday was a tragic day, to see all those workers standing there and knowing that they just lost some of their friends and coworkers and to see the families and what they were dealing with,” said MacIntosh.
“I could only imagine what they are going through and right now we want to do everything we can to support the investigation and support WorkSafeBC and those families.”
He said he did not have any information at this point about what may have triggered the crane’s collapse, but it was under investigation and the police would assist WorkSafe BC once the site was safe and the body of the missing man was recovered.
The Brooklyn on Bernard construction project is a Mission Group development.
In a statement, the company expressed its deepest sympathy for the families of the dead and said it had set up support services for them.
It also described the crane collapse as a catastrophic failure.
Condolences were also given by B.C. Premier John Horgan and Labour Minister Harry Bains.