Tragedy struck at the Charter Square building in downtown Raleigh, N.C., when scaffolding that was being dismantled collapsed on March 23. Three workers died at the scene. A fourth worker, Elmer Guevara, landed on top of a portable toilet – which apparently helped break his fall. He is in serious condition in the hospital with multiple injuries.
The victims have been identified as 41-year-old Jose Erasmo Hernandez, of Durham, N.C.; 33-year-old Jose Luis Lopez-Ramirez, of Clinton, N.C.; and 33-year-old Anderson Almeida, of Durham.
Dominion Realty Partners issued this statement: "We offer our condolences to the victims and their families affected by the construction accident... Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time. Construction has been temporarily suspended and we are cooperating with the City of Raleigh Fire Marshal and OSHA investigators to determine the cause of the scaffolding collapse.”
The N.C. Department of Labor, as well as federal authorities, are investigating the incident. At first, it was unknown how many of the victims might have been on the scaffolding or if they were on the ground below. A relative of Guevara told local television station ABC11 that Guevara was on the scaffolding when it fell.
Associated Scaffolding, a subcontractor on the project, was dismantling the scaffold on the building's exterior when the collapse happened, according to Mike Hampton, the COO for the project's general contractor, Choate Construction Co. Choate issued a statement saying it is "deeply saddened by the loss of life and injuries."
Witnesses said they heard a loud crash and that they could see that part of the scaffolding had snapped off and fallen to the ground. They said the workers appeared to be wearing fall protection harnesses.
OSHA has issued serious citations to Associated Scaffolding, one in 2007 related to safety and access to equipment for scaffold platforms, and one in 2008 related to valves for welding equipment.