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2021 Kelowna Crane Collapse Tragedy

CEU President, Laura Snow reports:

It was July 12, 2021, and it seemed like an average day in downtown Kelowna. People were working, tourists were in town, the sun was shining, it was summer in Kelowna. Then in a moment, everything changed. A crane used to erect a new residential tower had completed its role and was in the process of being disassembled when something went terribly wrong and it collapsed to the ground, killing five people, and injuring many more. This catastrophic incident left families and indeed the whole community grieving. The stories of people working together that day to search the rubble to find the fallen and the impact it has left won’t be forgotten. And many of us will see to it that it is never forgotten.

Killed that day were Cailen Vilness, Jared Zook, Brad Zawislak and brothers Patrick and Eric Stemmer.  Brad Zawislak wasn’t involved in the construction but was working in his office when the crane collapsed, hitting his building.

The North Okanagan Labour Council held a memorial event this year in Knowles Park in Kelowna, blocks away from where the tragedy occurred and I was honoured to attend the event and represent the Compensation Employees’ Union, along with Chair of Shop Stewards, Shane Campbell.

Knowles Park will be the home of the “Rise Memorial” as reported by Global News. While makeshift memorials have been in place near the site with candles, pictures and most prominently the safety vest hung on work fences, it will bring more peace to the community and families to have a permanent place to remember those lost.

This tragedy also had a profound impact on many of our members who investigated the crane collapse. The work of investigating and working with families and seeing someone die who reminds them of their own, this work stays with you and our hearts go out to the victims, the victims’ families, all the first responders, our members doing this hard work and everyone else doing the work to investigate so we can learn and do better for workers in BC in the future.

Laura Snow, CEU President

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