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Family of young man killed in Kelowna crane collapse says he had a bright future

Click to play video: 'Extended interview with Cailen’s father, Chris Vilness' Extended interview with Cailen’s father, Chris Vilness
WATCH: The father of Cailen Vilness spoke to Global News about the sorrow and loss he is experiencing. Cailen Vilness was identified as the fourth worker who died on Monday when a construction crane collapsed in downtown Kelowna – Jul 14, 2021

Cailen Vilness was just 23 years old when he went to work at a downtown construction site in Kelowna, B.C., on Monday, and never returned home.

Vilness was one of five men killed when the top portion of a crane — attached to a high-rise building — collapsed while it was being dismantled, slamming into an adjacent building.

The Kitimat, B.C., native moved to Kelowna to pursue career opportunities in the construction sector, a family trade.

His father, Chris Vilness, said he’s worked in the construction industry his whole life, and that Cailen’s older brother is an ironworker.

Read more: Construction union calls for mandatory training in wake of Kelowna crane tragedy

“He got into the construction industry. He is a hard worker. He wanted to fit in. He showed up for work every day and he wanted to be somebody,” Chris Vilness told Global News.

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The young man had a bright future. He just purchased a home with his long-time girlfriend, Jaydean Braham, and was on the hunt for an engagement ring.

Cailen Vilness was one of five men who died after a crane collapsed in Kelowna, B.C., on Monday, July 12, 2021. Courtesy: GoFundMe

“We were going to start our lives there together,” Braham said.

“He was a really amazing man. He just had such a big heart, and he cared about people.”

Chris Vilness said he flew to the Okanagan from Kitimat with his family after receiving news that the crane his son was working on had collapsed, adding that Cailen couldn’t be reached by phone.

Read more: 5th body recovered from rubble following deadly Kelowna, B.C., crane collapse

His mother, Danielle, who lives in Kelowna, rushed to the Parkinson Recreation Centre, where workers and their families gathered in angst, awaiting updates on the well-being of their loved ones.

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“They were put into a rec centre with families and Cailen’s crew. Everybody was accounted for, except for Cailen and one other. Nobody knew the severity of it all.”

Vilness said he was informed his son was among the victims after he landed at Kelowna International Airport.

Click to play video: 'Deadly Kelowna crane collapse update' Deadly Kelowna crane collapse update
Deadly Kelowna crane collapse update – Jul 13, 2021

“I got to a spot where I was prepared to take the grim news, maybe not accept it, and unfortunately, my son was one of the ones who perished in the accident.”

Vilness said the loss is devastating, the magnitude of which he is still comprehending.

“The feeling that comes across you when you get the news, it’s unbelievable. You don’t ever want to lose anybody. I lost a brother recently. To lose your own children, it’s a different pain,” he said.

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Read more: Two brothers among those killed in Kelowna, B.C., crane collapse

“Cailen cared for people. He was loving, understanding, he wore his heart on his sleeve. If you knew Cailen, you knew he had a heart of gold.”

Braham said she was teaching piano when she received a frantic phone call from her boyfriend’s mother.

Click to play video: 'Extended interview with Cailen’s girlfriend, Jaydean Braham' Extended interview with Cailen’s girlfriend, Jaydean Braham
Extended interview with Cailen’s girlfriend, Jaydean Braham – Jul 14, 2021

WATCH ABOVE: The girlfriend of Cailen Vilness spoke to Global News about the sorrow and loss she is experiencing. 

“His mom called me and asked me if Cailen was working on the towers today, because it was his first day back at work. And I said ‘yes,’ and she said it fell down,” she said.

Braham said the company he worked for, Stemmer Construction, asked Cailen to assist with dismantling the crane on Monday.

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“I knew he was on the crane and he wasn’t answering anything, and he has a phone on him usually for emergencies.”

Read more: Multiple fatalities after crane collapses in downtown Kelowna, police say

Braham said she and Cailen’s family waited nearly 12 hours to receive the official notification that Cailen’s body had been recovered from the rubble. But she knew he was gone.

“I felt a chill down my spine and I heard him say, ‘I love you. It will be OK, baby,’ and so at that time, I knew, I knew he was gone.”

Click to play video: 'Crane crash impacting people, businesses' Crane crash impacting people, businesses
Crane crash impacting people, businesses – Jul 13, 2021

Cailen’s family is now planning funeral arrangements.

“I am devastated. Our family is close. Real close. I’ve got four kids, and when you take one out of the equation, it takes away from the dynamic of your family,” his father said.

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“We can’t think of continuing throughout life without Cailen included in our family holidays. In our world.”

Cailen Vilness is pictured with his longtime girlfriend Jaydean Braham. Submitted

Fundraising efforts have been launched to support Cailen’s family. A link can be found here. 

The three other worksite victims have been identified by family and friends as brothers Eric and Patrick Stemmer of Salmon Arm, B.C., and Jared Zook of Edmonton.

The identity of the fifth victim has not been released.

A cause remains under investigation and an evacuation order around the site is expected to stay in place at least until what remains of the crane can be dismantled.

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