A rotting support beam and possible damage from carpenter ants were among several problems discovered after an elevated wooden walkway at Winnipeg’s Fort Gibraltar collapsed during a school field trip earlier this year, documents obtained by Radio-Canada through a freedom of information request.
Those issues were detailed following site inspections in the city’s St. Boniface area after the walkway collapsed in May, an incident that sent 18 people to hospital and reportedly left one child at risk of becoming permanently disabled. .
An inspection of the walkway conducted hours after its collapse noted that it appeared that a “support beam was rotted and giving way,” causing two sections on the north side of the fort to collapse.
Another inspection the next day, which the document said took a closer look at the beams, columns and the wooden palisade surrounding the site, found “evidence of insect damage (possible carpenter ants)” and “general wood rot” in several areas. .
The northeast corner of the walkway, structural components and fencing were also noted to be “more worn than other areas,” while the stairs, handrails and railings showed “significant damage,” according to the document.
Raymond Garand, who worked as director of operations for the Festival du Voyageur for more than 20 years before leaving the organization in 2016, said in an interview Tuesday that the walkway and surrounding fence required constant maintenance during his time there.
That included repairs that were completed around 2006 to replace parts of the structure because the wood was rotting, he said.
Garand said the organization also had to replace some planks of the elevated walkway each year because they were rotted. He also said he regularly treated the structure with a wood preservative product.
The walkway collapsed while a group of 10- and 11-year-old students from St. John’s-Ravenscourt School were on a field trip to the site on the morning of May 31, sending 17 children and one adult to the hospital.
A total of 28 people were evaluated at the scene and three of the children taken to hospital were in unstable condition.
Most of the injuries they suffered were orthopedic-related and none were serious or life-threatening, and only one injured child had to remain in the hospital to receive orthopedic surgery for a fracture, authorities said at the time.
SEE | Drone footage shows the collapsed bridge at Fort Gibraltar in St. Boniface:
One of the parents of the injured children He later filed a lawsuit in connection with the incident, alleging that her son could be permanently disabled after falling from the catwalk and accusing the Festival du Voyageur and the city of Winnipeg, which owns the site run by the non-profit organization, of negligence.
After the walkway collapsed, the city said it ordered the Festival du Voyageur to hire a professional engineer to evaluate the entire complex for unsafe conditions and make necessary repairs, but did not say what caused the collapse.
Both the city and the festival declined to comment.
The last municipal inspection occurred after “non-structural repairs”
The documents obtained through the freedom of information request also shed some light on the city’s previous statements that the Fort Gibraltar site had last been repaired in 2004 and inspected by the city in 2006.
A report dated October 28, 2004 details a plan for “non-structural repairs” to be made to the stockade wall on the north side of the park.
That included replacing stringers, stair treads and rotted beams in sections of the wall.
Two inspections (in November 2004 and March 2005) found that modernization work had not yet started. On April 5, 2006, an inspection found that all repairs to the structure’s stairs and railings were complete.
The Festival du Voyageur, which holds an annual winter event at Fort Gibraltar to celebrate the area’s fur trading history, said last week that it plans to dismantle the elevated walkway and the wooden palisade that surrounds it.
President Eric Plamondon said the organization’s board of directors determined that dismantling would be the best way to proceed with the goal of ensuring the site can reopen to the public in time for its February festival.
Plamondon said the Fort Gibraltar site will remain closed until the organization is satisfied it is safe to reopen to the public.
He said the plan is to begin dismantling the structures shortly, but he did not have specific details on when exactly that would happen or how much it might cost.
Fort Gibraltar is a 1978 replica of two previous forts of the same name. The original fort was used as a center for the fur trade and early settlers of Winnipeg.