13 Unlucky Number for Pittsburgh Iron Worker

Feb. 19, 2002
Thirteen' s reputation as an unlucky number remains unchallenged as the site of the new David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, a source of pride for the city, became the source of sorrow for the family of ironworker Paul Corsi.


Thirteen'' s reputation as an unlucky number remains unchallenged as the site of the new David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, a source of pride for the city, became the source of sorrow for the family of ironworker Paul Corsi.

Corsi, 37, of Moon Township, Pa., was crushed last week when the 13th of 15 massive trusses collapsed. Investigators for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), city, county and contractor have been on the scene since the accident occurred, trying to determine what caused the 165-ton truss to topple.

Corsi and two other ironworkers were standing on the 13th truss, which was approximately 100 feet long and 90 feet tall, attaching floor beams that would connect it to the 12th truss. The truss was anchored to the foundation of the convention center at 18 of 27 connection points. Workers had completed installing the floor beams for the second level and were in the process of installing the floor beams for the third level of the convention center when the accident occurred. The previous 12 trusses were installed in the same manner without incident.

Two of the workers tied off their safety harnesses to the 12th truss, so when the 13th truss toppled, they did not fall with it. Corsi was tied off to the 13 truss and when it fell, he was thrown to the ground and crushed when the truss landed on him. City and county officials say it appears that all three men were following proper safety procedures.

Two OSHA inspectors are on site to conduct an investigation and interview witnesses, said Ed Selker, a spokesman for OSHA''s Pittsburgh office. An engineer from the agency''s Washington, D.C., office was also assisting with the investigation.

Selker would not speculate when the investigation would be complete or when work could resume in the portion of the construction site where the fatality occurred.

"As far as we''re concerned, I think you''ll see us go into a long quiet period as we accumulate information, analyze it and put the facts together," he said.

Pittsburgh homicide detectives were also at the scene. They took measurements and conducted their own interviews. Assistant Police Chief William Mullen said his detectives were looking for any signs of gross negligence that could result in criminal prosecution.

"When you''re dealing with 160 tons of steel, there are inherent pressure and stresses put onto that until the whole structure is put together," said Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy. "There was stress on certain points of this truss, and, for whatever reason, there was a failure at those pressure points. That''s what we''re trying to understand." He added that at this point, there is no evidence of a design flaw.

At a press conference Steve Leeper, executive director of the Sports & Exhibition Authority, noted, "There could be a number of different reasons for why that steel collapsed. We''re going to wait until we get all of the information before we come out with a final view on that."

There are approximately 600 employees on the project.

The first phase of the convention center, which is completed, will open to the public on Feb. 23 with the Pittsburgh RV Show. The second phase of the convention center is scheduled to open in October, and the third and final phase - where the accident occurred &endash; scheduled for completion in March 2003.

"We are very sad that, on this building we are so excited about, we now have this tragedy to contend with," commented Murphy.

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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