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Fort Gibraltar ordered to close for inspection after 18 injured, Winnipeg mayor to look at safety regs

Click to play video: 'Questions remain after Fort Gibraltar platform collapse'
Questions remain after Fort Gibraltar platform collapse
There are still many questions over how a platform collapsed at Fort Gibraltar sending students and teachers plunging around 20 feet. Marney Blunt looks at the site's inspection history and potential legal action. – Jun 1, 2023

Festival du Voyageur can’t re-open the site where 17 children and one adult from St. John’s-Ravenscourt School were injured Wednesday until a “complete and thorough” assessment of the entire property’s safety is done.

“This structure can’t be used until we’ve resolved this through proper engineering advice and remedial action,” City of Winnipeg CAO Michael Jack told 680 CJOB’s The News.

Fort Gibraltar, a replica of a historic North West Company fur trading outpost in Whittier Park, is owned by the city but leased by Festival du Voyageur.

Meanwhile, Winnipeg’s mayor says he intends to get answers to questions about safety inspections at Fort Gibraltar, where when an elevated platform collapsed and fell almost 20 feet.

Mayor Scott Gillingham told 680 CJOB’s The Start that he feels for those affected by the accident and intends to look into the facility, which appears to have undergone two upgrades one in 2004 and another in 2013 — but only one that resulted in a mandatory inspection.

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“I haven’t had a chance to speak to anybody within the department, but that’s certainly a question I’ll be asking today — getting the information as to the inspections and what certainties are in place to make sure that all city assets and facilities are safe,” Gillingham said.

“The public should have certainty, we should have certainty, that all of our public facilities are inspected on a regular basis and are safe for the public to use.”

Although none of the students suffered fatal or life-threatening injuries, Gillingham said many are likely traumatized by their experience, and it’s important to ensure something similar doesn’t happen again.

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When asked who’s ultimately responsible for inspections of the site, Jack said through it’s longstanding lease agreement with Festival the responsibility falls on them.

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The last time a city inspection was done on the site was 2006 but Jack couldn’t speak to if, or when, Festival last checked the integrity of the fort.

“There’s no discussion about responsibility or blameworthiness at this stage, until we’re at least able to get closer to some conclusions,” he said.

Ameen Deraj, a senior structural engineer for ASD Enterprises Ltd., speculated the structure was likely built to code, but any outdoor structure should take environmental exposure into account.

“As you know, we have severe weather conditions and that can lead to deterioration over time … anybody who has, you know, decks and balconies, they have to maintain and inspect their structures on a regular basis to ensure that they remain safe and in a working condition,” he told 680 CJOB.

Festival did not respond to a request for comment.

Click to play video: 'Fort Gibraltar incident that sent 17 kids to hospital a ‘wake-up call’: Structural engineer'
Fort Gibraltar incident that sent 17 kids to hospital a ‘wake-up call’: Structural engineer

An associate dean of law at the University of Manitoba says because the city owns the property in which the fort sits on, the onus is on both the municipality and Festival to provide a duty of care.

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“The City of Winnipeg and the Festival du Voyageur owe a duty to the students and their teachers to make sure that the premises are safe, and that you won’t be harmed while you were there. And the harms that we need to think about are reasonably foreseeable harms,” Dr. Jennifer Schulz told Global News.

“It’s fairly obvious that if a five-meter-high walkway collapses, harm is very likely to ensue. So that’s not you know, a wild one in a million kind of situation, that’s a situation that’s completely, reasonably foreseeable.”

Schulz said if parents of the injured children were so inclined, a lawsuit against either party would likely be in their favour as Canadian courts prioritize the safety of children in litigation but noted it would have to be a group effort.

“And right now I’m sure those poor parents are much more worried about how the children are doing than launching legal action,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Students fall nearly 20 feet at Fort Gibraltar in Winnipeg, 18 hospitalized'
Students fall nearly 20 feet at Fort Gibraltar in Winnipeg, 18 hospitalized

As the Grade 5 students recover from the accident, a psychologist says there are also mental injuries to consider.

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When it comes to a mass trauma like this, Winnipeg’s Dr. Jo Anne Unger told The Start that people should check in with their kids.

“‘What are you thinking about this? What are your thoughts?’ Give them a time to just kind of talk about what’s going on for them,” Unger said.

“The reason I suggest this neutral question is we don’t want to make an assumption, or we don’t want to put our own feelings as adults and caregivers and parents onto our kids, because they may not be too worried about it … or they may have thoughts and feelings that we weren’t imagining.”

Unger said that even if your child wasn’t involved directly in the accident, it’s important to have this conversation, as news spreads quickly in this era of social media.

“It’s really important just to check in with our kids, to see how they’re receiving the information and just what’s going on in their minds.

“And also encouraging kids it’s OK to have empathy … and that’s actually a good thing, that we have this connection to other people in our community.”

A Shared Health spokesperson said as of 10 a.m. Thursday two of the 18 patients hospitalized yesterday remain in care in stable condition.

Click to play video: 'Frustrated parents of student on group trip to Fort Gibraltar react to hearing about emergency'
Frustrated parents of student on group trip to Fort Gibraltar react to hearing about emergency

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