'Dangerous defect': Construction firm in deadly Kelowna crane collapse suing manufacturer | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'Dangerous defect': Construction firm in deadly Kelowna crane collapse suing manufacturer

The crane collapse killed five in July 2021.


The Shuswap company whose crane collapsed killing five people at a Kelowna construction site two years ago is suing the manufacturer claiming it contained a "dangerous defect."

In the lawsuit filed one day before the two-year anniversary of the deadly crane collapse, Salmon Arm company Stemmer Construction is suing Liebherr-Canada alleging it was responsible for the accident.

"The Liebherr Companies, were responsible for the design, manufacture, marketing, and distribution of the Tower Crane and its components, including the operators’ manuals," a Notice of Claim said. "As a result of the negligence and breach of duty of the Liebherr Companies, the Tower Crane and/or the Manuals contained a dangerous defect, which led to the Accident."

Stemmer Construction goes on to say Liebherr Canada and its parent Swiss-based company Liebherr International, which designed and built the crane, knew of the "dangerous defect."

"The Liebherr Companies failed to warn users of the Tower Crane, including Stemmer Construction, of the Defect, which would have allowed the Accident to be avoided," the court documents said.

July 12 marks the two-year anniversary of the deadly crane collapse at the Brooklyn Tower Project on Paul Street that killed five people.

Construction workers Cailen Vilness, Jared Zook, and Erick and Patrick Stemmer - two of the crane company's owner's sons – were all killed that day, along with Brad Zawislak, who was at his desk inside a neighbouring building which the crane fell on to.

Zawislak's wife launched a lawsuit against Stemmer Construction last month accusing them of being responsible for her husband's death.

The cause of the crane collapse still hasn't been publicly released. WorkSafeBC has finished its investigation but has said it won't release it yet in case it jeopardizes a separate RCMP criminal investigation still ongoing.

In the court documents, Stemmer Construction said Liebherr-Canada is negligent in causing the crane to collapse but outside of saying the crane had a "dangerous defect" doesn't elaborate.

The company said the "particulars of which are yet to be known" and its waiting for the results from WorkSafeBC and the RCMP investigations.

READ MORE: CRANE COLLAPSE: RCMP win fight against Stemmer Construction over seized data

Stemmer Construction's lawsuit against Liebherr-Canada is in contrast to a multitude of other lawsuits that all put the fault on the Salmon Arm construction company.

In the days leading up to the two-year cut off eight lawsuits have been launched against Stemmer Construction – one case involves 14 separate plaintiffs – and all point the finger of blame at Stemmer Construction and developer the Mission Group.

The newly filed court cases range from a nearby resident who is suing for $13,500 to repair the floor damaged by his fridge and freezer which leaked because the power was cut off, to victims who narrowly escaped the crane smashing through the building and are left suffering, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

One of the more harrowing cases was filed by Shelby Austin Miller. He suing Stemmer Construction and Liebherr-Canada.

His Notice of Claim said he was sitting "a short distance" away from Zawislak in the building next door when the crane "narrowly missed" hitting him.

"(Miller) watched as the ceiling and crane collapsed directly onto his co-worker. (He) was showered in debris from the roof and hit with multiple falling objects that caused small lacerations and significant bruising. (Miller) was left in a state of severe shock as a result of witnessing his co-worker crushed by the collapsing crane and nearly being hit himself. (He) then escaped the office building with the aid of another co-worker," the Notice of Claim read.

Miller is suing for psychiatric injuries, anxiety, depression and PTSD, among other things.

READ MORE: Kelowna crane collapse victim 'not a footnote' to the tragedy: Family

The owner of the engineering firm where Zawislak worked gives a play-by-play account of what took place in the moments before the crane crashed through the building.

In a Notice of Claim filed July 10, Protech Consultants owner Grant Maddock said he was looking out of his office window at 11:30 a.m. that morning when he noticed three construction workers running for safety.

"He then observed the tower of the crane that has been in place working on the Brooklyn residential Tower... crash into the lane behind his building," the court documents said. "He immediately heard an enormous crash that appeared to be in his building. He then raced out of his office to discover that the crane operator's cage had crashed into the building and into Protech's suite of offices.

"He ran down the hall of his office to find the crane operator's cage resting in the place where... Zawislak had been sitting at his desk working," the Notice of Claim read.

The court documents said he searched to find Zawislak but couldn't find him.

"He then observed that the Crane operator was still in the cage and was very badly injured," the court documents said.

With the help of one of his employees, he laid the crane operator on the floor and he was very badly injured and bleeding profusely.

He later learned Zawislak had died when he had been crushed by the crane operator cage which pushed through the floor and into the office below.

He's also suing for PTSD along with stress and anxiety and a multitude of other psychological injuries.

READ MORE: A year on, still no answers for 5 families in deadly Kelowna crane collapse

Lawyer Chris Fraser was working in the building that morning a floor below where Zawislak was sitting. In his Notice of Claim, he stated the crane only narrowly missed him.

"(Fraser) was trapped under his desk and had to crawl out for under the rubble to safety," the court documents said. "Once (Fraser) was able to escape from the rubble, he was able to see that the crane narrowly missed collapsing on top of him."

His undisclosed claim for damages is much like the others who were in the office that day – psychological harm and PTSD.

Another case filed involves 14 nearby companies and individuals who live in the area. Together they argue the company had a duty of care to make sure the construction site and the surrounding area were safe to use.

In another court filing, Kelly-Ann Kreutzer is suing over the loss of her beauty salon. Kreutzer wasn't at the salon that day, nor were any of her employees, but after the crane crashed through the building it was deemed unsafe and she was forced to close her business.

The court document said she'd just spent more than $50,000 in renovations, but she then had to work from home, causing her to lose multiple clients. She never returned to the tower block once it opened 18 months later. She's suing for loss of earnings.

Neither Stemmer Construction nor Liebherr-Canada was immediately available for comment.

None of the allegations in the court filings have been proven.

More coverage of the crane collapse can be found here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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