Deadly 2021 B.C. crane collapse could see criminal charge laid

Click to play video: 'Kelowna RCMP recommend charges in deadly crane collapse'
Kelowna RCMP recommend charges in deadly crane collapse
They've been investigating for about two-and-a-half years and tonight's news that police believe criminal negligence was involved in that deadly crane collapse in Kelowna in the summer of 2021. RCMP concluded the lengthy and complex investigation recommending charges be laid, but who is the focus of those charges isn't yet known. – Feb 20, 2024

The police investigation into a 2021 crane collapse that killed five people in Kelowna B.C. is done and a recommendation has been made for a charge of criminal negligence causing death.

“This is an extremely complex investigation that needed to be done methodically and thoroughly to protect the integrity of the investigation,” RCMP said in a brief statement about forwarding the charge recommendation to the BC Prosecution Service.

Kelowna RCMP said their members will work closely with the prosecution to ensure they are best equipped on the facts of the case to make an informed decision on charges.

The morning of July 12, 2021, at a Mission Group construction site in the downtown core of Kelowna, a crane being dismantled crashed to the ground and killed onsite workers Cailen Vilness, Jared Zook, and Patrick and Eric Stemmer. Brad Zawislak, who was working in the building next door, was also killed.

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“This investigation included dozens of police officers and countless hours of evidence gathering and analysis,” Supt. Kara Triance said.

Click to play video: 'WorkSafeBC completes report into deadly Kelowna crane collapse'
WorkSafeBC completes report into deadly Kelowna crane collapse

“The gravity of this incident and the associated work to understand what happened has been tremendous. We will work to support our partners and our community through the next steps.”

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The Kelowna RCMP said it is unable to provide additional details on the investigation or findings. It didn’t offer any insight into who the charge may be focused on, though said that issue could be “revisited” when a decision has been made by the prosecution service.

Click to play video: 'Families of the men killed in a crane collapse speak on the first anniversary of the catastrophic incident'
Families of the men killed in a crane collapse speak on the first anniversary of the catastrophic incident

WorkSafeBC completed its investigation into the crane collapse in May 2023 and at that time said it would not release the results due to the ongoing investigation.

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The workplace safety organization indicated Tuesday that it not be releasing its incident investigation report into the Kelowna crane collapse, at this time, to ensure it does not affect the charge assessment process.

“Although the WorkSafeBC investigation report is not being released, WorkSafeBC has continued to incorporate key learnings about tower crane assembly, disassembly, and repositioning into its ongoing crane safety initiatives,” a representative said in a statement.

While further insight into the criminal investigation has yet to come to light, there have been multiple lawsuits looking at the case.

One focused on the manufacturer of the crane that collapsed, alleging it was selling a defective product. Stemmer Construction alleged in July 2023 that Liebherr-Canada Companies were responsible for the accident because either its tower crane or the related manuals contained “a dangerous defect, which led to the accident.”

“The accident was in whole or in part by the negligence of the defendants, the particulars of which are yet to be known, pending the results of investigations by both WorkSafe BC and RCMP,” reads the notice of claim.

Around the same time, Zawislak’s widow filed a suit, claiming his death deprived her of “his love, guidance, care, services, training and financial support.”

Another suit was filed against Stemmer and Liebherr Companies this week from Zawislak’s co-worker, Shelby Austin Miller, who witnessed the death and narrowly escaped fatal injury himself.


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