Sister of Kelowna man who died while evacuated due to UBCO highrise excavation wants answers | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Sister of Kelowna man who died while evacuated due to UBCO highrise excavation wants answers

Jim Hadgraft with his mom.
Image Credit: Sue Bauman

A resident who was forced out of his home because of UBC Okanagan’s highrise construction in downtown Kelowna died earlier this week and his sister is speaking out.

Jim Hadgraft, who had Down syndrome, died on Tuesday awaiting surgery after he broke his leg. Hadgraft's family has been a generous financial contributor to the non-profit that operated the supportive housing building geared towards those with fixed incomes and disabilities with the family's name on it, Hadgraft Wilson Place.

READ MORE: Resident evacuated due to UBCO highrise construction in Kelowna has died

Since the residents’ evacuation on April 1 they have still been paying rent but have been staying in hotels paid for by the operator of the building Pathways Abilities Society.

Sue Bauman, Hadgraft’s sister, said she wants UBC Trust, the legal entity that owns and oversees construction for UBCO’s downtown highrise, to take responsibility for derailing Hadgraft’s life and the lives of the other residents.

“I just want everybody to put pressure on UBC Trust as much as possible, and not let them get away with this,” she said. "I’m mad right now and I think when you’re mad you can leave the sad part."

She said no one is to blame for what happened to her brother.

“He certainly was very vulnerable even more so, as all the tenants are, from having to leave his home. It was too much for him. He was very anxious and depressed and he was having a really hard time,” she said.

“We put as much support as we could in place and in the end he just wandered a lot. He was out a lot more than he normally would have been. He liked to walk everywhere but I think that if he had a home that was safe and secure it would have been a bit different.”

READ MORE: UBCO not releasing engineering reports for downtown excavation that caused evacuation

A memorial sign for Jim Hadgraft posted outside of Hadgraft Wilson Place.
A memorial sign for Jim Hadgraft posted outside of Hadgraft Wilson Place.

Bauman said she isn’t sure exactly how her brother broke his leg.

“We don’t know where he fell and we can’t seem to get to the bottom of it,” she said. “All we know is he fell somewhere in Kelowna. I don’t know who called the ambulance... we don’t know if he fell down some stairs or on a curb we don’t know.”

UBCO’s principal and deputy vice-chancellor Lesley Cormack reached out to offer condolences to Bauman through Pathways’ director Charisse Daley.

“It’s nice that she reached out but I don’t have time to phone her so she can tell me how sorry she is. But of course she wouldn’t really be able to say anything like if I said to her, ‘why haven’t you taken responsibility for the building?’ She wouldn’t be able to make any comment at all,” Bauman said.

Bauman wonders if the situation would be playing out differently if the building were occupied by a different group of people.

“If I had lived in that building and it was a building of people that were more privileged, would we be looking at the same scenario today? I’m wondering in my mind, and this might be my evil side, but is it because they think this is a group of people who don’t have much power,” she said.

“Here we’ve got subsidized housing, people who were homeless before, or at a disadvantage anyhow. It’s not a building with a bunch of doctors and engineers and lawyers, people who could have hired a bunch of big time lawyers to go at it themselves. It's typical of what seems to happen in society these days to people who don’t have a voice or the same kind of voice.”

Bauman hopes some movement can come out of this tragedy.

“It's because Jim has died. That's kind of a trigger if I had decided to speak out a few weeks ago my words wouldn’t have the same weight," she said. "It’s very sad that this has changed things, but if something good or some movement comes out of this that’s a good thing for everybody.

"What I want is a statement from UBC Trust, their board of directors, that hits the mark. It’s amazing to me they haven’t done that. All they’ve done is deny responsibility."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jesse Tomas or call 250-488-3065 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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