Looking back on where he was a year ago, it’s a mix of emotions for Jacob Hurl as the first anniversary of the London, Ont., building collapse approaches.
“It seems like it’s gone by so quick, and I don’t know why that is,” Hurl.
“Around this time last year, I was on my way to the hospital, and I could not walk, and now I am able to walk around, and I am still doing physiotherapy to improve things… mental health, we are still working away at that.”
Dec. 11 will mark one year since two people died in the partial building collapse at 555 Teeple Terr., a construction site of the upcoming southwest London apartment building called the Nest on Wonderland.
Hurl was trapped for over four hours, his leg trapped on the ground floor, with talks of amputation.
He suffered numerous injuries, including a damaged spine, compression fractures, a concussion and a cracked skull, and severe chemical burns.
“Everyone else knows what happened that day was horrible. It should not have happened and I was pretty banged up, but I look at the scars on my legs, and if I don’t talk about it or advocate, I don’t think I could live with myself,” Hurl told Global News.
Just this week, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development announced eight charges related to the collapse.
In an email to Global News, the ministry said East Elgin Concrete Forming Ltd., iSpan Systems LP and an unidentified individual face a combined total of eight charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
“I think those eight charges show that the system kind of works, and it’s not just a throwaway,” Hurl said.
“If no one had talked about this, and I did not do interviews, and the other people involved did not do interviews, I honestly felt this would have gotten buried by the government because they just don’t want to talk about it.”
East Elgin Concrete Forming Ltd., a Tillsonburg-based company, faces one count of failing to “provide information, instruction, and supervision to a worker to protect the health and safety of a worker, at a workplace located in London, Ontario.”
iSpan Systems LP, a cold-formed steel framing systems manufacturer and supplier based in Princeton, Ont., faces six charges, the bulk of which relate to failing to meet various construction design provisions under the act.
The company is also charged with failing to “ensure that a building, structure or any part thereof, or any other part of a workplace, whether temporary or permanent, is capable of supporting any loads that may be applied to it in accordance with good engineering practice.”
The unidentified individual faces one count of “providing advice negligently or incompetently that did endanger a worker at a workplace.”
Reacting to the charges, Hurl was happy seeing someone held accountable.
“I think people in the city of London and across Ontario … were keeping a close eye on this case and were not going to let it go, like, how do you not lay changes in something like this?” Hurl said.
“You can’t blame this on the weather. It’s not like something would have blown that building over, so I think there are a lot of people happy about seeing this information come out.”
Hurl is looking forward to spending this Christmas with his family and joked that he made sure to not leave Christmas shopping to the last minute like last year.
Looking to the future, Hurl said he is continuing to advocate for changes in the construction industry and to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
“At the time the building went down, there was a three-week little girl that lost her dad, and she will never really get to meet him, and something needs to be done about that,” Hurl noted.
Henry Harder was 26 years old when he died in the collapse, leaving behind a wife and daughter, while John Martens, the second person who died, was just 21.
Hurl and his family will be marking the Dec. 11 anniversary by laying a work vest at the site and gathering with other groups advocating for changes for workers right outside the building.
Mike Carter, executive director of the London and District Construction Association, said the collapse made all their members take a deeper look at job sites.
“It was tragic, and we will wait and see what comes out of the trial, but practices have been re-evaluated by all of our members. The type of work that occurred at Teeple Terrace is very common to every construction site,” Carter said. “You look at any of the condominiums going up in downtown concrete formwork is an inherent part of every aspect of the industry.
“It was extremely sobering to everyone.”
The LDCA represents around 500 members, and since the collapse, has worked to set up a legacy fund to help the families impacted by the accident.
Carter said they have raised close to six figures in donations from their members, with some of the money already going to the families of the two men who died. The rest of the money is being set up to support the workers and their families who were injured. The funds will also allow for retraining for those that were badly injured.
Global News reached out to both of the accused companies for comment when charges were announced on Dec. 7 and did not hear back.
A first court appearance in relation to the charges has been scheduled for Jan. 11, 2022.
— with files from Global News’ Andrew Graham