January 7, 2022
VANCOUVER, BC — FORTY-ONE years ago, four men went to work building one of Downtown Vancouver’s most iconic highrises and 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 at the Bentall IV tower collapsed on Jan. 7, 1981.
“The Bentall Tower IV accident was so catastrophic that 41 years later, members of the Building Trades still talk about where they were, what they heard, and how it affected the entire industry,” said Brynn Bourke, executive director of the BC Building Trades.
The annual memorial ceremony was held as a hybrid event this year, due to COVID-19 health restrictions. A small group of speakers and industry leaders gathered at the memorial outside the Burrard Street SkyTrain station while the ceremony was broadcast to the general public online.
Despite the change in process, the messages of hope, resilience and commitment to worker safety remained the same.
“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,” said Bourke,
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 2021, there were 28* work-related deaths in the construction industry. Of those, 16 were due to disease and 12 were due to trauma, including several workers who were killed in the crane accident in Kelowna this past summer.
Construction workers continue to sustain an occupational fatality rate that is three times the provincial average.
“Construction is the deadliest sector in the country,” noted Bourke. “We owe it to these workers to do better, to be better.”
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.
*Figures are preliminary and inclusive to the end of November 2021