January 7, 2021
Vancouver, BC — Forty years ago, four men went to work building one of Downtown Vancouver’s most iconic highrises: the Bentall Centre Tower IV.
Those men never came home.
They were carpenters Gunther Couvreux, Brian Stevenson, Donald Davis and Yrjo Mitrunen, who plunged 36 floors to their deaths when the fly form they were standing on collapsed on Jan. 7, 1981.
“These four men were fathers and sons, they were brothers and husbands. They were friends. Twenty-one-year-old Brian, in fact, was someone’s fiancé,” said Brynn Bourke, interim executive director of the BC Building Trades.
“Every year, we say their names and we come to the memorial for them in Vancouver to remember the terrible sacrifices they all made, and that their families continue to make.”
The annual memorial ceremony will look a little different this year, due to COVID-19 health restrictions. In years past, family members have joined industry leaders, government representatives and others at the memorial outside the Burrard Street SkyTrain station. But this year, the BC Building Trades hosts a virtually ceremony to spread messages of hope, resilience and commitment.
Peter Mitrunen, son of Yrjo Mitrunen, and Bruce and Dianne Stevenson, brother and sister-in-law of Brian Stevenson, will take part in the virtual event.
The ceremony will be held online on Jan. 7 at noon here: https://video.ibm.com/channel/J4mpecTq8sC
In the years since the Bentall tragedy, more than 1,000 construction workers have died in B.C. due to workplace trauma or disease. In 2020, there were 30 work-related deaths in the construction industry. Of those, 11 were due to traumatic injury while 19 were due to disease.
Construction workers continue to sustain an occupational fatality rate that is three times the provincial average.
“Construction is, in fact, the deadliest sector in the country,” notes Bourke.
Every year, representatives from the BC Building Trades, the labour movement, WorkSafeBC, and local leaders join family members and the public to mark the deaths of the four construction workers who died on Jan. 7, 1981. The memorial is an opportunity to remember the men who are so deeply missed, and to renew the call for stronger safety measures in the construction industry.
“So although we’re apart, we will continue to fight together for safe construction sites so that every worker goes home at the end of every day,” added Bourke.
View the video online at https://video.ibm.com/channel/J4mpecTq8sC