Vegetable farm worker dies in building collapse

A buildup of ice and snow on the roof of a vegetable shed on a southern Manitoba farm is blamed for a collapse in which one farm worker died.

Portage la Prairie RCMP reported Monday that they were called along with firefighters and paramedics at about 3 p.m. to Mayfair Farms in Portage’s Island Park, where the roof of one of the farm buildings had collapsed.

According to a release Monday from RCMP Cst. Stephen Senuita, early reports indicated 10 to 15 workers were inside the shed when the roof came down, and four workers were trapped beneath it.

One worker was able to free himself, while Portage fire crews extracted two more. The fourth worker, who wasn’t identified pending notification of the family, was pronounced dead at the scene, RCMP said.

According to an online report Monday from the Portage la Prairie Daily Graphic newspaper, firefighters worked for about an hour trying to free the person who died.

Two of the other three workers have been released from hospital while the third is in “stable” condition, RCMP said.

The Daily Graphic reported that workers and the farm’s owners were in the shed, which the paper described as a 21-by-30-metre metal-clad building used as a warehouse to store market produce.

“I would only assume it would be the snowload on the building that collapsed the roof,” Portage fire chief Phil Carpenter told the Daily Graphic’s Angela Brown. RCMP said in their release that “early indications” pointed to snow and ice overload as the cause.

Brown quoted a worker who said he saw the roof suddenly begin to heave and collapse: “I saw a wave of rippling metal coming across the ceiling.”

Manitoba Workplace Health and Safety and the provincial fire commissioner’s office are taking part in the ongoing investigation of the collapse, Portage RCMP said.

Several highways were closed in southern Manitoba Monday morning and a number of vehicle crashes and power outages were reported due to freezing rain that began overnight.

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