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New West takes action after construction fence falls on mom and daughter

Gust of wind blew down fencing on Sixth Avenue
Construction fencing near a civic construction site has been reinforced after toppling over and landing on a local resident on the weekend.

Construction fencing at the Canada Games Pool site has been reinforced after it toppled over on a mom and her daughter on the weekend.

The pair had left swimming lessons at Canada Games Pool on Saturday morning and was walking along East Sixth Avenue when the incident occurred at about 10:15 a.m. on April 10.

“The mom and the daughter were walking along and there was a strong gust of wind. It toppled onto them,” said Christy Mereigh, the city’s project manager, strategic services. “Some passersby stopped and lifted the construction fencing to assist them out.”

Construction of the new aquatic and community centre had begun only days earlier with site preparation work, including installation of construction fencing around the worksite.

“It must have been a pretty strong gust of wind to blow the fencing down. It was not normal for that for construction fencing, but it happened,” Mereigh said. “They were in the setup stage. It was just being brought on site and set up.”

Mereigh said further anchoring work was scheduled to be done to the fence on April 12 and 13.

“The fences were all bolted together,” said Mereigh, who visited the site after the incident. “Each panel had been tied together, which, when it did topple, all the fencing came down.”

Several passersby came to the mother and young girl’s assistance. One person ran to the fire hall to get help, and several people worked together to lift the heavy fencing so the mom could get out from where she’d been pinned.

The mom and daughter, who were shaken up by the incident, went to Royal Columbian Hospital to be checked out.

According to Mereigh, the contractor contacted him about the incident, and he called the mom on Saturday. He said she told him she didn’t sustain any fractures in the incident but was told she may have some bruising and muscle pain.

“I asked how the daughter was doing. She said she was outside playing normally, but she was going to keep an eye on her,” he said.

Mereigh said the incident was undoubtedly quite frightening for the mom and her daughter and is something the city takes seriously.

“We are New Westminster. We do care,” he said.

"An oddity"

Mereigh said he has passed along information about the incident to his superiors at the City of New Westminster in case additional followup is needed.

“It is not something that happens every day,” he said.

Although the contractor had planned to anchor the fencing around the work site, Mereigh said that’s not something that’s always done with construction fencing.

“At most construction sites they don’t usually anchor down the fences,” he said. “They are all locked together, and they have a foot brace at the bottom … so they don’t tilt either way.”

As a result of the incident, he said the contractor immediately anchored and braced the fencing at the site. He said “big lock blocks” were also being installed as extra protection.

“It’s not going to happen again,” he said. “It is going to be rock solid.”

Mereigh, a longtime employee of the City of New Westminster, said he’s unaware of any past incidents where an entire row of construction falls down because of wind.

“I have seen, when we have the really bad wind storms, some pieces that might come down that are not adequately tied together,” he said, “but this is an oddity.”

The mom involved in this “surreal and very traumatic” incident told the Record she hopes this type of incident doesn’t happen to anyone else.

According to the city, the only bylaw requirements related to fencing are for enclosing swimming pools. The BC Building Code requires the installation fencing where hazardous construction activity is occurring, so this fencing was being installed in preparation for the upcoming construction activity at the site.

Follow Theresa McManus on Twitter @TheresaMcManus