It was a disaster that unfolded in seconds, but was years in the making.
On April 19th, in the midst of a wedding celebration at a home in Aldergrove, a large deck collapsed, throwing dozens of people to the ground.
Almost 40 victims, ranging in age from 15 to 83, were hurt in the collapse in the 5800 block of 268th Street.
One was airlifted to hospital, two to three were in critical condition, and about 12 to 15 were initially classified as being in serious condition, while the rest received relatively minor injuries, police said in the immediate aftermath.
Those who saw the aftermath described it as “15 minutes of insanity.”
Neighbour Charles Ford heard a large boom.
“Though my back was to the house, when I turned around I could see people running,” Ford said. “They were running from the front of the house to the back.”
The Garcha family had rented the home for the gathering as a middle place for relatives coming from the western Lower Mainland as well as Penticton.
Although no one died, in the days after the collapse two family members were in the intensive care unit at Royal Columbian Hospital, and another four were in that hospital with less serious injuries, along with at least five others in Surrey Memorial under medical supervision.
Starting in September, lawsuits began flying over the deck. Most were aimed at Amaroo Estate, the building’s owner, as well as Langley Township.
Jatinder Kaur Grewal was one of the party-goers who has filed a lawsuit, listing an extensive list of injuries including a broken femur, multiple foot fractures, a broken tooth that required extraction, injuries to her right knee, scarring and soft tissue injuries, and PTSD, anxiety, chronic pain, and chronic fatigue, among others.
None of the many lawsuit allegations have been tested in court.
The Township of Langley, included in a number of the more than 20 lawsuits filed to date, issued a statement in the fall claiming it was not responsible, because the deck was built illegally.
The deck which collapsed was built sometime after the house’s construction in the 1990s, according to the Township’s response to the lawsuits.
It’s unknown which owner built the new deck. Some legal documents name Amaroo Estate as the owners, but a response by Amaroo says the company was renting it from a different owner.
“The illegal deck was constructed without any building permit from the Township,” said the Township’s legal response.
“Construction of the deck was thus carried out surreptitiously and entirely unbeknownst to the Township and, as a result, its construction was never subject to the Township’s inspection,” it says.
The deck was allegedly held up by two pillars, and was only connected to the house’s exterior fascia boards with screws and nails, and didn’t extend into or under the house for stability.
In addition, the Township’s documents say the business of renting out the home was itself illegal and unlicensed.
Meanwhile, Amaroo has filed documents with the court sayng the Township was negligent for failing to properly inspect the deck and the home.
As 2019 ended, the claims had not gone to court.