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Scaffolding Collapse Kills 3 Raleigh Construction Workers

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On Monday, March 23, 2015, three construction workers were killed and another critically injured when an exterior lift system tore from the side of an office building under construction in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina.

The accident happened shortly after 11 a.m., on a Choate Construction site, where a support structure of the scaffolding system failed near the fifth floor and fell into the performing arts center parking lot across the streey. Leroy Kelley witnessed the scene, stating workers were dismantling a “mast climber” on the eleventh story Charter Square Building, located on Fayetteville Street, when the elevator-like system collapsed, sending a mobile scaffolding platform to the ground. Kelley was working below the scaffolding when he heard a popping sound and someone yelling “Run!” Kelley ran beneath the building and heard an enormous crash.

Authorities have identified the deceased workers as Jose Erasmo Hernandez, 41, of Durham, N.C.; Jose Luis Lopez-Ramirez, 33, of Clinton, N.C.; and Anderson Almeida, 33, of Durham. The injured worker, who was taken to WakeMed, was Elmer Guevara, 53. It is reported that some of the workers were aboard the platform when it fell, and one of the workers killed had been in a portable toilet that was crushed by the falling platform.

The collapsed system appeared to run a wide platform up and down a central, ladder-like structure that is bolted to the building at intervals. North Carolina State law requires that a qualified inspector examine the system daily, but neither the city nor state government inspects mast climbers or similar scaffolding systems.

North Carolina Labor Department spokesman, Neal O’Brian, says the investigation could take three to six months to complete.The investigators will try to determine whether the contractors observed the weight-load limits of the system, whether a qualified person designed the system, and whether a competent person inspected it.Choate Construction has been Dominion Realty Partners’ lead contractor for more than a decade. Andy Andrews, chief executive for Dominion stated, “They’re a great company – been in business a long time..There’s a lot of information still being gathered,” he said. “Obviously our thoughts and prayers go out to the families … it’s a terrible, terrible accident.” According to Federal records, Choate Construction has been cited for safety violations seven times in the past 10 years.