Students fall nearly 20 feet at Fort Gibraltar in Winnipeg, 18 hospitalized

Click to play video: '17 kids, 1 adult injured in Winnipeg school field trip accident'
17 kids, 1 adult injured in Winnipeg school field trip accident
An elevated platform at Fort Gibraltar, a popular historic site in Winnipeg, collapsed during a school field trip, sending 17 children and one adult to the hospital. Melissa Ridgen reports on what some students say they experienced, the condition of those taken to the hospital, and the panicked moments for parents – May 31, 2023

Seventeen children and one adult from St. John’s-Ravenscourt School in Winnipeg are recovering after an elevated platform collapsed during a school field trip at Fort Gibraltar in St. Boniface.

Three children of the 18 people hospitalized were in unstable condition when they were taken to hospital Wednesday morning after the accident, according to Jay Shaw, assistant chief of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service.

Shaw said they were called to the fort in Whittier Park just before 10 a.m. with a report a school group, including 10 and 11-year-olds, fell nearly 20 feet from a wooden platform inside the complex.

Click to play video: '17 children, adult transported to Winnipeg hospital after group fall from raised platform, assistant fire chief says'
17 children, adult transported to Winnipeg hospital after group fall from raised platform, assistant fire chief says

Most children have been treated and will be discharged throughout the day and only one child is expected to stay overnight for observation after orthopedic surgery, Dr. Karen Gripp, medical director of the Children’s Hospital emergency department, told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

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Gripp said none of the injuries suffered by the students were severe or life-threatening, but noted it could have been “so, so much worse.”

Tameem Aljafari, a student at SJR, told Global News that he and around 30 of his peers were walking over a bridge in the fort when it collapsed.

Tameem was not injured, but emergency personnel loaded most people who fell into ambulances.

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg raised platform collapse: Police remain at Fort Gibraltar as inspectors examine scene'
Winnipeg raised platform collapse: Police remain at Fort Gibraltar as inspectors examine scene

“And then we got to the hospital and then they did a check on everybody,” he said.

Bystander Chantel Craig said she saw children being treated and put into ambulances, while the Major Incident Response Vehicle took more children from the scene.

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg resident describes emergency crews at Whittier Park'
Winnipeg resident describes emergency crews at Whittier Park

A statement from SJR confirmed it was a group of Grade 5 students involved.

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“There was an incident that resulted in emergency services transporting 17 members of the SJR community to hospital. We contacted their parents and families,” said Jim Keefe, head of the school.

Keefe said the students and adults who weren’t hurt returned to the school where they were cared for. Parents were contacted to pick up their children.

The City of Winnipeg owns the property Fort Gibraltar sits on but it is operated by the Festival du Voyageur under a lease, according to David Driedger, manager of corporate communications with the City.

The cause of the collapse is not yet known.

“An initial search of our records would seem to indicate that repairs were made to the elevated walkway in 2004 and 2013. We have not received any complaints related to the property based on an initial search of our records,” Driedger said in an email.

Mayor Scott Gillingham said he’s unsure of if, or how often structures like the fort get inspected.

“Everybody wants answers to this and wants to make sure, obviously, we avoid in every measure possible anything close to a repeat of the tragic situation that happened today,” he told 680 CJOB’s The News.

A statement from Festival du Voyageur said the organization is cooperating with the investigation and the fort will be closed for an unknown period of time.

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Winnipeg police were seen outside the fort early Wednesday afternoon. Manitoba Workplace Safety & Health is conducting an investigation.

Fort Gibraltar was originally built in 1809 by the North West Company at the fork of the Assiniboine and Red rivers and acted as a hub for fur trading and community development, but was burned to the ground by competing Hudson’s Bay Company in 1816.

When the two companies merged in 1821 it was rebuilt, then later moved to higher ground but partially demolished in 1882. That site is now known as Upper Fort Garry.

A reconstructed fort was built in Whittier Park in the late 1970s for the Festival du Voyageur.

Click to play video: '2023 Festival du Voyageur preview'
2023 Festival du Voyageur preview

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