Missing man’s body found in Kelowna crane collapse rubble

KELOWNA (NEWS 1130) — The body of a fifth person has been recovered from the rubble of a crane collapsed in Kelowna earlier this week.

A special operations team from Vancouver was deployed to search for the missing man, after tragedy struck on Monday morning. Officials say the man’s body was found late Tuesday night.

The Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) Task Force arrived on scene Tuesday and teams combed through the rubble in Downtown Kelowna once they arrived. They focused their search on the neighbouring office building. RCMP say the fifth man was inside the building Monday when the crane fell on it, leaving the building heavily damaged.

The crane was being dismantled when it collapsed, according to Mission Group, the developer behind the 28-storey building project.

Due to the damage, the surrounding area was evacuated and access to the site was very limited due to safety concerns. Teams were not able to search for the fifth man’s body until more than day after the crash.

The Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Task Force is made up of 120 members with medical, fire suppression, emergency response, search and rescue, and engineering backgrounds. A search dog was used to assist in the search. The team has been deployed across Canada, including in 2013, when the team was called to assist the victims of Calgary’s flood.

The team arrived shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday, and immediately began to assess the hazards in the area. A structural engineer was then able to determine the safest course of action. The body was recovered after 11:30 p.m., according to HUSAR Asst. Chief David Boone. He says the team always hopes to pull out a survivor whenever they respond but this time they knew the outcome would not be positive.

“We came up with knowledge that was passed along to us from Kelowna Fire that this was a recovery. We got on scene… It was quite obvious that it was a recovery. We took all precautions to ensure there were no further tragedy on site,” Boone said. He credits local firefighters who jumped into action moments after the collapse, many who had likely never seen an accident to this magnitude.

“I give Kelowna Fire a lot of credit for what they were able to accomplish and what was thrown at them 30 hours before we arrived on scene,” he said.

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The recovery of the fifth man’s body comes as tributes to four others who were killed on the construction site pour in. RCMP say the four other men were all working at the site at the time.

Brothers Eric and Patrick Stemmer have been identified on a GoFundMe page as two of the four men confirmed dead. From Salmon Arm, the brothers both leave behind wives and children.

“So much has changed in such a short time span and [their wives] are bravely tackling grief and figuring everything out as they go. We need to be there for them and support them in this time of tragedy and loss,” reads fundraiser, created by Emily Roy of Salmon Arm.

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Another GoFundMe page has identified Jared Zook as another victim of the crane collapse. According to the page, his parents live in the Edmonton area.

The fourth victim, Cailen Vilness, is being remembered as a 23-year-old man who was about to propose to his girlfriend.

Tributes are pouring in for the victims of Monday’s deadly crane collapse. Friends remember Cailen Vilness as a “prince of a man.”

Another man was hurt in the accident. He was taken to hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

Since the crash, there have been many tributes to the victims. Some within the close knit construction community have been hanging their safety vests outside their homes to honour the workers.

A candlelight vigil has been planned in Downtown Kelowna for Friday.

The BC Coroners Service, Kelowna RCMP, and WorkSafeBC are all investigating what caused the crane to collapse.

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