Four migrant workers die in plunge from highrise

Posted by admin on Dec 25th, 2009

December 25, 2009, Raveena Aulakh, Toronto Star

The four construction workers who died when scaffolding collapsed on Christmas Eve were migrant workers, Toronto police confirmed Friday. They were between the ages of 20 and 30, Duty Inspector Howie Page told reporters outside 2757 Kipling Ave. where the accident happened. He wouldn’t confirm what country they were from, or what company they worked for. A fifth worker survived the fall but remains at Sunnybrook Hospital with extensive head injuries.

The five men were on platform outside a 13th-floor balcony when it collapsed minutes after 4:30 p.m. on Thursday. One of the men was able to hang on for a brief moment, dangling precariously from the equipment. But he couldn’t hang on for long – he fell before fire crews arrived on the scene.

The bodies of two of the workers are still on the ground and are clearly visible from the top floor. Strong winds have blown the orange tarp that was covering them Thursday evening.

The scaffolding, which is still dangling from the southeast side of the building, is in a dangerous position, and the Ministry of Labour is assessing when it can be taken down.

“The (platform) snapped in two… just like that,” said Elisha LeRoy, who arrived on the scene of the accident moments after it happened. “I don’t think I heard any screams. What an awful thing to happen on Christmas Eve,” she told the Star on Friday.

It`s not known what caused the collapse or if the men were wearing safety harnesses. Foul play is not suspected.

The men were employed by a contracting company and had been working most of the day on the south side of the 18-storey building, reinforcing and repairing balconies, residents said. They had just finished work and were preparing to go home when the platform gave way.

The men had been working on the floor of Godwin Apodet’s 13-floor balcony at 4:08 p.m. when he left to go to the nearby Rabba store to get groceries.

“I looked at the time and I asked them jokingly if they were going to work all evening on Christmas Eve,” said Apodet. The young-looking men were on their knees, hammering and plastering on the floor, he said.

They had been laughing and joking loudly.

Apodet returned at about 4:45 p.m. to see police cruisers, fire-trucks and ambulances surrounding the building. A police officer was frantically knocking on his door when he got to his apartment. “He rushed to the balcony and told me to stay away, ” said the shocked man. “This is so upsetting I don’t think I’ll be able to stay here tonight.”

On the concrete ground where the men fell, a lot of construction material appears to have been stacked. There were some covered barrels and a makeshift platform on one side.

Residents of the building said construction work on balconies and in the basement has been going on for at least three months. The building is one of three in the complex. Two or three crews worked on balconies almost every day. They were at least two other platforms, like the one that came apart, on different sides of the building.

Shreya Kulkarni, who lives on the 12th floor, said repair work first started in one the neighbouring buildings in the summer and then in her building.

“There is always a lot of construction noise,” she said, adding that her balcony has been blocked for the past few weeks as the workers made the repairs.

The building manager was not available to talk about the specifics of the construction.

This is the second incident being investigated by the ministry of labour. On Wednesday, a 25-year-old man was electrocuted in the mechanical room of Holiday Inn on Bloor St. W. in Toronto. He was installing a fan, police had said.

With files from Madeleine White

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