A prince of a man.
That’s how Canadian country star Aaron Pritchett described his beloved second cousin, Cailen Vilness, who was killed in last Monday’s horrific crane collapse in Kelowna, B.C.
Pritchett took to social media on Sunday to share his family’s grief, saying they lost a son, brother, uncle, nephew and partner, whom he described as “one of the sweetest, most kind, honourable, and loving members.”
Vilness was one of five men who died when a tower crane attached to a high-rise building under construction collapsed while it was being dismantled.
He was just 23 years old.
“Every time I happened to be in Kelowna, Cailen would drop everything to visit. He would do that for anyone in his family whom he never had the chance to see often, because family meant the world to Cailen,” Pritchett wrote.
“His infectious smile and laugh, sense of kindness and care warmed my heart, and anyone he met. He truly was a prince of a man, and all who met him would say the same about Cailen.”
Vilness was the son of Pritchett’s first cousin, Danielle. Pritchett said he considered Vilness his nephew.
“Some people are put on earth as angels. To be a light for those who need positivity, happiness and boost your will to live; Cailen was one of those people,” Pritchett said.
Pritchett wrote that Vilness helped his mother beat brain cancer, twice — a Stage 4 diagnosis.
He met his soulmate, Jaydean, in Kelowna, and the two were planning to get married and spend the rest of their lives together, Pritchett wrote.
“But with the similar heart of gold Jaydean possesses, and knowing that Cailen loved her as much as he did, Jaydean will be a member of our family for life,” he said.
Prichett concluded his heartfelt open letter by saying Vilness will never be forgotten.
“I love you, buddy.”
The country singer is urging the public to donate to a verified GoFundMe page, established to support Vilness’s family as they cope with unimaginable grief.
More than $60,000 has been raised in five days.
Global News spoke to Cailen’s father, Chris Vilness, just days the tragedy that claimed his son’s life.
He said the family hails from Kitimat, B.C., and has roots in the construction industry. It was Cailen’s first day back on the job. He was asked by Stemmer Construction to help dismantle the crane.
Chris 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.
Cailen’s girlfriend, Jaydean Braham, said she waited for nearly 12 hours for the official notification that her boyfriend was deceased. But she already knew in her heart that 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.”
Stemmer Construction, the Salmon Arm-based company that owned the crane, broke its silence over the weekend, releasing a brief statement on its website.
“We are deeply saddened by the events that occurred on the Brooklyn Tower Project,” the company said, while asking for privacy.
“We thank you for your love, understanding, and prayers of support during this time of profound grief.”
The cause of the crane collapse remains under investigation.