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Both men ran to avoid the falling beam, but Charles Thomas ran into its path.



Published: Sun, April 27, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Both men ran to avoid the falling beam, but Charles Thomas ran into its path.

By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Friends and family of Charles Thomas describe him as a kind man always willing to lend a hand.

Thomas, 55, of 131 Boardman Street, was crushed by a falling steel beam at a demolition site at the corner of Front and Phelps streets just after noon Saturday.

The William Pizzuto Co. is tearing down a parking garage on the block, which is bordered by Front, Phelps, West Boardman and Hazel streets.

According to police reports, a worker for the construction company was using a crane to lift a steel beam, but the cables on the crane became stuck on a piece of wood and the beam began to fall.

Thomas and another man were standing and talking on the sidewalk in the vicinity of the demolition work, the report shows. Reports say both men began to run in opposite directions when they saw the beam falling, but Thomas ended up in the steel's path.

Police said he died before help arrived.

The steel beam that hit Thomas is used to protect streetlight poles from falling debris during the demolition process.

Under investigation

A spokesman for the Youngstown Police Department said it is unclear if any charges will be filed. He said police are still investigating.

William Pizzuto, owner of the demolition company, said Thomas, a steel worker on disability, had been a common sight around the demolition area. He said workers had asked him to leave the area several times before the accident, but he usually came back.

"When I left to go to lunch, [Thomas] was standing there on the corner in front of the [Trinity United Methodist] church," he said.

According to Pizzuto, the area around the demolition site was roped off.

Family and friends of Thomas' said it was a part of his nature to be around construction or demolition sites, making conversation with whomever he could. His sister, LaJena Solomon, said he just liked to watch the work.

She had gathered Saturday evening with friends of her brother's outside Amedia Plaza, West Boardman Street, where he lived.

"He was always just the type of person that was just there -- no matter where you looked, he would be there, talking and being friendly," Solomon said.

Parking

The garage is being torn down to make way for 151 surface parking spaces. The parking spaces will be on two levels because the site sits on a small hill.

A park is to be built across from city hall, between Amedia Plaza, which sits on the corner of West Boardman and Hazel, and WFMJ TV, which sits on the corner of West Boardman and Phelps. Only the WFMJ and Amedia Plaza buildings will be left standing on the Phelps-Front-Hazel-Boardman block after the demolition.

The parking deck structure included the garage, with its entrance on West Boardman, the old Hasti House restaurant (formerly the Italian Restaurant) on Phelps Street, and the three-level brick section along Front Street, which was a separate building but part of the parking complex.




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