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VIDEO: Memorial marks one year since deadly crane collapse shook Kelowna

Five horn blasts were aired to mark the one year anniversary
A memorial was held on the one year anniversary of a crane collapse that killed five at a construction site in downtown Kelowna July 12, 2021 (Brittany Webster - Capital News)

“Kelowna remembers.”

That was the message heard on Tuesday as people gathered in downtown Kelowna to honour the five men who died after a crane collapsed at a construction site on July 12, 2021.

Eric Stemmer, Patrick Stemmer, Brad Zawislak, Jared Zook, and Cailen Vilness tragically died after a crane came crashing to the ground in downtown Kelowna.

A couple hundred people turned up on the first anniversary at the corner of Bernard Avenue and St. Paul Street to pay respects.

Occupational Health and Safety Investigator with WorkSafeBC Jessica Berglund says parallel investigations by WorkSafeBC, B.C. Coroner and the RCMP are all ongoing, “but we are getting very close to completion. I’m pleased to say a majority of the work has been done on that investigation and as soon as we have concluded and finalized our report we will be sharing the findings to build an understanding of what happened last year on July 12 and how we can prevent these types of incidents from happening again in the future.”

READ MORE: RCMP Serious Crimes Unit continues to investigate Kelowna crane collapse

Jared Zook’s parents flew in from Edmonton to speak, his mom noting a piece of them will forever live in Kelowna.

“There are so many things we miss about Jared,” Pam Zook said. “His stubbornness, for real, it worked in his benefit often. His big grin, regardless of how he felt and what he was walking through he always had a smile. His humour, quick and witty lightened the mood. His super tight bear hugs, he was nicknamed bear since he was born.”

Five horn blasts aired at 10:55 a.m., the time the incident took place. A bagpiper played in tribute and construction was temporarily halted on Mission Group construction sites so fellow tradesmen could offer a moment of silence.

As part of the memorial service, donations were collected for the Kelowna Crane Incident Legacy Education Fund which will support the seven children these men left behind to pay for post-secondary tuition.

Vice President of the North Okanagan Labour Council Kelly Hutchinson helped organize the memorial.

“It’s not just about today though,” he said to the crowd. “We have to turn our minds to the future and doing better. We know there’s a big temporary display down the block, it’s beautiful and it’s been well maintained by neighbourhood, but it suffers from the environment and it’s going and it’s temporary in nature. So, our labour council really is committed to doing whatever we can in partnership with the city, the developer, the community at large to try to have a permanent, public-facing place that the family and friends can come to remember and honour these gentlemen, to make sure these names Eric, Cailen, Jared, Patrick, and Brad are never forgotten.”

On the day of the incident, an evacuation of downtown was put into effect and the city was forced to call a local state of emergency shortly after the incident.

The specialized heavy urban rescue team of first responders was dispatched from Vancouver to assist with the debris.

Four of the five victims were identified as construction workers on the site. Brothers Eric and Patrick Stemmer, of the family-owned Stemmer Construction that operated the crane on-site, while the other two victims were identified as Zook and Vilness.

The fifth man, Zawislak, who was not working construction at the site, but instead next door in an office, also died when the crane crashed into his building.

READ MORE: Disassembly begins after deadly Kelowna crane collapse; evacuation order partially lifted


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About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

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