Girlfriend's final texts before roof collapse

 

The girlfriend of an apprentice tradie killed after a glass canopy collapsed at a construction site at Perth's Curtin University has described him as her soulmate and revealed her one regret about their relationship.

Jonnie Hartshorn, 23, plunged more than 20 metres through a glass roof at the university just after midday on Tuesday.

Two other workers were also injured, with the one in a critical condition waking from an induced coma on Wednesday, while the other was discharged from hospital.

Mr Hartshorn's girlfriend Kylie Bonita Galende posted a lengthy tribute on Facebook, saying she would miss his smile and cheeky laugh.

"The moment our eyes met, we both knew … you are my other half. The missing piece of me," she wrote.

"I will miss your karaoke singing in the car. I'll miss your voices and the faces you pull.

"I'll miss your good morning messages every single morning and random check-ins through the day to see if I'm OK.

"I'll miss you always making sure I knew that you felt like you were the lucky one to be with me, but I know how truly blessed and lucky I was to have had you in my life.

"Last week, I told my best friend that I think I am in love with this guy, I almost told you. But I didn't, I chickened out. That's my only regret.

Workers are comforted at the site of the collapse. Picture: Nic Ellis The West Australian
Workers are comforted at the site of the collapse. Picture: Nic Ellis The West Australian

 

After hearing of the incident Ms Galende frantically texted the man she'd fallen in love with a series of messages that he would tragically never get to read.

"You're at Perth uni aren't you? Not Bentley?" she wrote in two consecutive text messages, according to a screenshot posted to Facebook seen by 9 News.

"Please send me a quick message if you are ok."

Later Ms Galende sent a final message to say all the things she wished she'd said before.

"I'm hoping and praying you are going to be ok … I should have just told you on the weekend how much I have fallen in love with you."

Tributes are flowing in for Jonnie Hartshorn.
Tributes are flowing in for Jonnie Hartshorn.

"I don't really know how life will continue now. No one had ever seen me as happy as when we are together.

"The world has just turned very, very dark and gloomy. A beautiful man was taken from everyone today and it shouldn't have happened.

"I knew a while ago that I've found the ying to my yang. My soulmate, my best friend, everything I could have ever wanted in life was right there with him, and I knew he would look after me forever."

Mr Hartshorn's aunt described him as "the most beautiful soul".

"Words can't describe the heartbreak and the pain I am feeling right now … it still doesn't feel real," she wrote on Facebook.

"I had so much love for you. You meant so much to me … I will never get over this."

Another loved one wrote: "We all adored him so very much and will miss him terribly."

Rikki Issitt, 26, was on the canopy with Mr Hartshorn and suffered critical injuries, but he woke from an induced coma at Royal Perth Hospital on Wednesday.

"Rikki is a strong young man and a real fighter - we know he will do whatever he has to do, so he is out of hospital as soon as possible and enjoying his life again," his family said in a statement.

"However, it is still very early days and we do not know what the future holds.

"Right now our focus is on Rikki and providing him with all the support he requires."

A 27-year-old man, who was working on a lower level and fell 10 metres, has been discharged from hospital.

There are fears of a further collapse. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Sharon Smith
There are fears of a further collapse. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Sharon Smith

One witness described the moment Mr Hartshorn and Mr Issitt fell into a "big mess of steel and glass", while many colleagues were too upset to speak about what happened.

Mr Hartshorn died immediately in the fall, and Tactical Response Group officers used special equipment, including a robot, to recover his body on Tuesday night.

Fire crews earlier freed Mr Issitt and the other man, who suffered multiple injuries and were trapped in the rubble.

The collapse happened at building 418, which is under construction at the northern end of the campus. The project is operated by Lendlease.

All three men were subcontractors, and according to Mr Hartshorn's Facebook page, he was employed by ABS Facade, which specialises in the design, fabrication and installation of commercial facades.

The company declined to comment to NCA NewsWire.

Lendlease building chief executive Dale Connor said the company was working with authorities.

"We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident, and our immediate priority is to support the workers' families, friends and colleagues," he said in a statement.

"The site remains closed and support is being provided to the Curtin University team during this difficult time.

Another man is fighting for life in hospital. Photo Simon Santi / The West Australian
Another man is fighting for life in hospital. Photo Simon Santi / The West Australian

Federal Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter told 6PR radio the investigation would need to be "extremely thorough".

"We can never work hard enough to make workplaces safe," he said.

"This is a really quite remarkable event to have a collapse of a structure of that scale on a construction site.

"Something absolutely catastrophic has gone wrong somewhere in the chain."

The cause of the collapse is yet to be determined, but CFMEU state secretary Mick Buchan claimed safety concerns had been raised recently regarding the deflection in the structural steel.

But a WorkSafe spokeswoman told NCA NewsWire there was no record of any concerns dating back as far as January last year.

Meanwhile, WA Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston says he is very disappointed that the Work Health and Safety Bill, which is designed to strengthen penalties for companies that fail to ensure worker safety, has not yet passed parliament.

"The bill came to parliament last year, has been subject to two inquiries that support its passage, and has been debated for several weeks in the Legislative Council," he said.

"In light of the tragic fatality yesterday, I ask that there are no more unnecessary delays."

Mr Johnston said he expected the bill to pass the upper house this week.

"I was devastated to hear about the tragic fatality at Curtin University," he said.

"As I've said many times before, the death of one worker is one too many."

Families Left Behind spokesperson Regan Ballantine, whose 17-year-old son Wesley died at a worksite in 2017, agreed the bill needed to pass as soon as possible, saying Mr Hartshorn's death was "jarringly close to home" for her.

"The incident is glaringly similar to the circumstances in which my son lost his life," she told reporters.

"It just speaks to the fact these incidents are all too common, that four years later the construction industry hasn't cleaned up its act enough.

"I know what that family is going through ... it is absolutely harrowing."

WorkSafe is investigating. Photo Nic Ellis / The West Australian
WorkSafe is investigating. Photo Nic Ellis / The West Australian

 

Students laid flowers near the site on Wednesday and flags on campus were lowered to half-mast.

Police Commander Mike Bell told reporters on Tuesday that the structure "suddenly gave way without warning".

Electrical Trades Union official Damian Clancey said the workers had been sealing gaps between panels and putting in flashings.

"(There was a) massive crashing sound as I walked past the front of the building," he told reporters.

"There was dust flying everywhere, there was people running around screaming."

Mr Clancey said if the incident occurred five minutes earlier - before many left for their lunch break - there would have been at least 20 more people working on the site.

A Curtin University spokesperson said no staff or students were in the area.

Police will prepare a report for the coroner, and WorkSafe will conduct its own investigation.



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