Stunned construction industry asks: How did deadly collapse happen?

Norman De Bono, The London Free Press

The deaths of two men – John Martens, 21, and Henry Harder, 26 – and injuries to four others have shaken the industry, with at least one longtime developer doubling-down on safety procedures at his sites in the wake of Friday’s incident.

“The whole industry, the whole city, is talking about this tragedy. No one should die going to work,” said Southside Group President Vito Frijia, one of the most experienced builders in London.

“There will be an investigation and they will come up with recommendations for the industry.”

A four-storey apartment building being built at 555 Teeple Terrace, along Wonderland Road in west London, collapsed at about noon Friday. Workers there have described a just-poured concrete section on the fourth floor collapsing and smashing down onto each floor beneath it to the ground.

According to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, from 2010 to 2019 nearly one-in-three workplace deaths in Ontario, 32 per cent, happened in construction.

Frijia is not alone in thinking about safety on job sites. There will likely be difficult talks at many workplaces across the city as the fatal incident startles workers and sends a chilling reminder of the dangers on the job.

“It’s devastating,” said Dave Stimac, president of the London Home Builders Association and also president of Ironstone Building Co., a residential building company.

“The industry is in shock. There have been a lot of calls back and forth among our industry peers. Many sites will have conversations between staff and site supervisors about what happened.”

Speaking generally, Stimac said that when a building is about to go up, a series of inspections are called for in the industry and there should be close supervision.

A “notice of project” is filed with the Labour Ministry before building starts and inspectors visit sites for a spontaneous review. The building site will then see city hall inspectors at various stages, looking at structural and plumbing construction.

“On a mid-rise project there are third-party consultants such as the design team, architects, mechanical engineers and structural engineers” who can review what’s being done, Stimac said.

The cause of the fatal collapse remains under investigation, officials said Sunday, with the site under the control of London police and Ontario’s Labour Ministry.

Speculation is rampant among the local construction industry about what could have caused the incident. Stimac, however, says any number of things may have played a part.

“It could have been mechanical failure, it could have been human error. There are so many trades, so many people on a site.”

Mike Carter, director of the London Construction Association, said he “will leave it to the professional investigators to reveal what the cause was.”

The four-storey complex, dubbed Nest on Wonderland, is being built by Brock Development Group. Its principal, Shaun Stevens, is known in the industry as a residential home builder.

Stevens is known for creating new construction businesses every few years, such as Treadstone and Kaizen Homes and now Brock Developments.

One online business directory lists Brock as headquartered on Routledge Park in northwest London and states it has 21 employees and revenues of $4 million. The company’s own website – – is under construction.

The directory also lists Michelle Doornbosch as a partner in the company. She is president of Nest on Wonderland, the name of the structure that collapsed. Doornbosch is a former planner at the private planning firm Zelinka Priamo.

Calls to Doornbosch were not returned over the weekend. But she issued a statement Saturday on the tragedy.

“We are cooperating fully with the regulatory authorities as they carry out their investigation,” the statement read. “We are devastated by this incident.

“Our first priority is always the safety of our employees, contractors and the community in which we work and live.”