Woman rescued from Victoria construction crane; three face charges

Thrill-seekers and distressed individuals climbing sky-scraping cranes are becoming a problem, said a Victoria fire official after a woman had to be rescued on Sunday.

The 23-year-old woman, who climbed a 30-metre construction crane with two men, ages 22 and 24, was abandoned by her acquaintances after she became stranded.

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“She was pretty shaken and banged up when she got back down to the bottom,” said Victoria battalion chief Bob Jones.

Victoria firefighters responded at 8:20 p.m. with their technical high-angle rope-rescue team and equipment including an aerial ladder.

The crane is on the construction site of rental units being built by Farmer Construction Ltd. at the corner of Pandora Avenue and Cook Street.

“They are climbing them as a joy ride,” Jones said.

“They are starting to be a real problem.”

At a height of about 21 metres on the descent down slender metal stairs, the woman became petrified — stranded on a small metal grated landing, Jones said.

“It’s a very thin stairwell ... and coming down is very tough,” Jones said.

“She was in a state.”

The three climbers appeared to be intoxicated, Jones said, and when rescuers shone a light on the woman, she tried to hide.

“We were worried she’d start back up again,” Jones said.

Unable to descend the stairs with her, firefighters had to perform a tricky high-angle rescue — securing her in a rescue suit and stretcher with safety lines to lower her along the outside of the crane.

“It’s not a safe situation, but we have to make it safe,” said Jones, adding crews are well trained in this procedure.

Construction sites can attract people who want a dry, out-of-the-way place for drug or alcohol use, Jones said.

Gerrit Vink, president of Farmer Construction, said he talked to his site supervisor on Monday and confirmed the site was secured and locked. He said people “forcefully” broke in.

The construction area is up the street from the Our Place community centre, on Pandora near Quadra Street.

Vink said drug use is no more a nuisance for the construction industry than for any other business or nearby residents.

“[The] rampant drug-use issue is a problem for all of us,” said Vink.

Vink said he is thankful first responders were able to rescue the woman quickly and safely.

He dismissed the idea that the new problem of crane-climbing in the city is an activity of thrill-seekers, saying: “No, this is drug users.”

The three climbers were charged with break and enter, said Victoria police Const. Matt Rutherford. They were released on a promise to appear in court on Dec. 15.

Rutherford said there have been a couple of instances of people climbing cranes in the past few months.

On Oct. 4, Pandora Avenue was closed for about three hours as police negotiated with a distressed man who had climbed a 40-metre construction crane on a large development project by Jawl Properties.

Officers climbed to the top of an adjacent structure to communicate with the man. Just after 8:30 p.m., three hours after the incident started, the man climbed down via a narrow stairway and was taken to hospital for a mental-health assessment.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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