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‘Prepared for the worst:’ 1 adult, 16 children injured during Winnipeg school trip

1 child needed to stay for overnight observation
A section of collapsed walkway (centre right, behind tent) is shown at Fort Gibraltar in Winnipeg, Wednesday, May 31, 2023. Sixteen schoolchildren and one adult were taken to hospital after a fall Wednesday at the popular tourist attraction. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Several Grade 5 students were treated for broken bones and other injuries Wednesday (May 31) after falling from a wooden structure at a popular tourist attraction during a school trip, but most were expected to return home by the end of the day.

Sixteen schoolchildren and one adult were taken to hospital after a falling 4 1/2 to six metres inside Fort Gibraltar.

Hospital officials said by Wednesday afternoon, most of the group had returned home or were expected to do so. One child needed to stay for overnight observation.

“It could have been so much worse. We were prepared for the worst,” said Dr. Karen Gripp, medical director of the Children’s Hospital emergency department.

Gripp told reporters most of the injuries were orthopedic, meaning broken bones. There were no life-threatening injuries.

Paramedics were called to Fort Gibraltar, a venue in the St. Boniface neighbourhood that hosts functions as well as historical re-enactments, at about 10 a.m. after receiving reports of an accident involving children age 10 to 11.

Crews initially assessed 28 people before determining 17 needed to be transported to hospital. At that time, three children were in unstable condition. Another 13 children and one adult were transported to hospital in stable condition.

Michelle Bessas, platoon chief with Paramedic Operations, said six ambulances transported the most severely injured patients to hospital while some of the stable patients were transported by emergency bus.

“Thankfully, we don’t have very many mass casualty incidents that we have to deal with, but we do train for it regularly. Everyone on the scene was well prepared and we triaged everybody in a timely fashion.”

A resident in the area told reporters she saw at least two people taken away on stretchers.

“There were about five or six kids that walked out on their own with paramedics and got into a (response vehicle) to be assessed,” said Chantelle Craig.

A notice was sent to parents from Jim Keefe, head of St. John’s-Ravenscourt School.

The notice, which the private school provided to The Canadian Press, confirms the fall happened during a Grade 5 field trip.

“There was an incident that resulted in emergency services transporting 17 members of the St. John’s-Ravenscourt community to hospital. We contacted their parents and families,” Keefe said Wednesday.

“We are doing everything we can to support our Grade 5 students and teachers and their families.”

The remaining students and accompanying adults returned to the school, where faculty, staff and counsellors are caring for them, Keefe said.

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson posted about the fall on Twitter.

“Our thoughts go out to all the students, teachers and families of St. John’s Ravenscourt affected by today’s terrible accident at Fort Gibraltar,” she wrote. “Thank you to all first responders for their immediate action.”

Festival du Voyageur, which owns the fort, said it is co-operating with all authorities as it assesses the situation.

“Our thoughts are with all those who are affected by this difficult, sad and extremely unfortunate situation. We would like to thank first responders and personnel that responded quickly to the incident to prioritize the well-being of all those involved,” Chantal Vielfaure, director of marketing, communications and sales, wrote in a statement.

“This is a difficult time for many, and we want to ensure that respect and support for those involved is of the utmost importance.”

The venue will be closed indefinitely.

Brittany Hobson and Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

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