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City, Festival du Voyageur failed to provide safe setting for injured child, lawyer says

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Lawyers representing a child who was seriously injured in the collapse of a walkway at Fort Gibraltar in May say they’re hoping to hold the city, as well as Festival du Voyageur, the organization that operates the site, accountable.

In the May 31 incident, 17 children and one adult from St. John’s Ravenscourt School fell nearly 20 feet to the ground after the elevated platform collapsed.

The group was on a school field trip to the fort, in St. Boniface-area Whittier Park, when the collapse took place.

Earlier this month, a civil claim was filed by the parents of one of the students against both the City of Winnipeg and Festival du Voyageur.

Troy Harwood-Jones, a lawyer for the plaintiff, told Global News there are some unusual aspects in the case.

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“What is unusual are the circumstances with respect to the collapse of the elevated walkway at Fort Gibraltar,” he said, “what appears to have been a lack of inspections and maintenance at this public facility.”

Click to play video: 'Lawsuit filed against city, festival after platform collapse'
Lawsuit filed against city, festival after platform collapse

The walkway had gone without a safety inspection since 2006 and the lawsuit claims the city and Festival “failed to maintain the premises in a reasonable state of repair” and allowed the premises to “enter an unsafe condition.”

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Fort Gibraltar has remained closed since the incident took place.

“We say that the city and Festival du Voyageur didn’t provide a safe facility for the child,” Harwood-Jones said. “They failed to maintain it properly and ensure that the elevated walkway, which was open to the public, was safe for use.”

Two sections of a collapsed walkway are shown behind tape at Fort Gibraltar in Winnipeg, Wednesday, May 31, 2023. CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

While most children were treated and discharged the same day, the lawsuit alleges that the student at the centre of the case suffered a left femoral neck fracture and a right forearm fracture and underwent surgery.

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Further surgical procedures are set to take place, and the lawsuit says the child is also dealing with psychological trauma as well as depression and mental suffering as a result.

Harwood-Jones said the child’s injuries are significant, and they’re still assessing the true extent of their impact moving forward.

“It’s one of the reasons we are still assessing the significance and magnitude of the damages — we won’t know the full extent of the child’s damages for some time.”

The City of Winnipeg has confirmed legal action has been filed in relation to the incident, but declined to comment any further.

Global News has reached out to Festival du Voyageur for comment. The allegations have yet to be proven in court.

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

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