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Construction resumes on Kelowna collapse site despite opposition from victims' family, friends

·2 min read
A part of Bernard Avenue in downtown Kelowna, B.C., is closed as cranes are being reassembled near Mission Group's construction site on Oct. 26, 2021. (Winston Szeto/CBC - image credit)
A part of Bernard Avenue in downtown Kelowna, B.C., is closed as cranes are being reassembled near Mission Group's construction site on Oct. 26, 2021. (Winston Szeto/CBC - image credit)

Family and friends of victims killed by the crane collapse in Kelowna, B.C., in July are asking real estate company Mission Group to put its downtown construction project on hold until WorkSafeBC completes its investigation into the cause of the incident.

On the morning of July 12, the arm of a crane fell about 25 storeys as it was being dismantled at the construction site of the Brooklyn residential tower, and smashed into a neighbouring office building and a seniors' home.

The incident killed five men, including brothers Eric and Patrick Stemmer who worked for their family business, Stemmer Construction, which was contracted by Mission Group to operate the crane.

In a statement last Friday, Mission Group said cranes would be re-assembled by another company on Tuesday to complete the construction of the Block office tower and the Bertram condo building, which, along with the nearby Brooklyn residential building, are part of Mission Group's Bernard Block project.

Winston Szeto/CBC
Winston Szeto/CBC

The Stemmer brothers' friend, Jason Wickner, and his wife launched an online petition this week, asking the Mission Group to put the construction on hold while WorkSafeBC investigates the crane collapse.

"In light of the fact that an investigation into the cause of the collapse is still underway, these statements by Mission Group and the continuation of the project prior to even installing any kind of memorial feels disrespectful," reads the petition letter.

Wickner says the company promised it will unveil its plan to install a memorial honouring the deceased by Christmastime, but he thinks the company should do this before resuming the construction.

"We're looking at the mental health of the family and the friends and everyone who knew them, as well as the people around the towers," he said Tuesday to host Chris Walker on Daybreak South.

"I can't imagine anyone near those towers seeing cranes go up how they would be affected by this, even if they didn't know any of the deceased."

Winston Szeto/CBC
Winston Szeto/CBC

Wickner and his family joined a vigil near the construction site on July 16, where hundreds of attendees mourned the death of the Stemmer brothers, construction workers Cailen Vilness and Jared Zook, and Brad Zawislak, who was working in the neighbouring office building hit by the crane.

Wickner says the petition also asks the Mission Group not to build the Block office tower and to make space for a memorial park instead, to commemorate the crane collapse victims.

"We recognize this is a big ask and there are contracts in place," he said.

"However, this would offer a place for families and friends and everyone in the community to go and honour these fallen people, and recognize that they were more than their work — they were family men, they were brothers, they were sons and they were fathers."

The Mission Group declined CBC's request for an interview.

Winston Szeto/CBC
Winston Szeto/CBC
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