Two bricklayers were killed after a hydraulic scaffold collapsed today while they worked on a condo project in west-end Toronto, leaving construction workers at the site in shock.​

It appears a hydraulic scaffold — sometimes known as a mastclimber — catastrophically malfunctioned and plunged to the ground while the men were working around 11 a.m. on the condo in the Bloor and Keele area. The Ministry of Labour is investigating.

One man, said to be in his 50s, was pronounced dead after reportedly falling five storeys, paramedics told CBC News. He was initially trapped when the hydraulic scaffold collapsed.

A second worker, whose age has not been released, was rushed to St. Michael's Hospital with life-threatening injuries, but was pronounced dead just before 1 p.m.

Structural collapse

Emergency responders attend the scene of a collapsed scaffold last month in the Bloor and Keele area. (Toronto Fire/Twitter)

Vince Sapone, a construction worker at the site, told CBC News he didn't see the scaffold collapse, but heard "a big bang."

Sapone said he knew the older worker, an "amazing guy" who had just become a grandfather. He said the worker had been doing this type of work for around 25 years, and definitely knew what he was doing high up on the hydraulic lift. 

At the job site, workers wiped tears from their eyes and comforted one another as they waited for news. 

"Everybody is very emotional, we all stick together. We're all family, pretty much," said Sapone.

Ontario's Labour Minister Kevin Flynn and the ministry's chief prevention officer, George Gritziotis, issued a joint news release on Friday afternoon to confirm an investigation has been launched.

"We want to express our deepest sympathies to the families, friends and colleagues of the individuals who lost their lives. No one should go to work in the morning and not come home at the end of the day," the statement said.

Ministry investigators who responded to the scene were tight-lipped about what went wrong. Engineers and inspectors remained at the scene for much of the day to collect evidence. 

New training coming soon

Ontario is set to start a new safety program next week for all workers who use high platforms, a more frequent and riskier line of work amid the city’s condo tower boom.

Bruce Bolduc, a workplace safety consultant with Construction Workplace Safety Training Ltd., said he doubts the two men were wearing harnesses when the mastclimber they were on malfunctioned.

Mastclimbers — a relatively new arrival in Ontario — are more robust than typical scaffolding.

"It would be like riding an elevator," Bolduc said.

"You wouldn't wear a harness in an elevator. You would assume the elevator is going to make it to the floor you want, and that's the same type of process here."

But harnesses might have been able to protect the workers during the collapse, he said.

"These things are easily preventable, and it should never have happened," he said.

With files from The Canadian Press