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DEMOLITION DEATH City waits for OSHA findings



Published: Wed, April 30, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



A key question will be whether the street was blocked off correctly.

By ROGER G. SMITH

CITY HALL REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The city will wait for a federal inquiry before deciding what to do after an onlooker died in a demolition accident downtown.

An inspector was to be in the city today from the Cleveland area office of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA, however, isn't sure what role it has because the death didn't involve a worker.

Nancy Newman, assistant area director for OSHA's Cleveland office, said the agency might only have a limited role. OSHA typically handles issues regarding worker safety, she said.

The city will wait for OSHA's findings to decide if any local or other laws were broken in Saturday's fatal accident, Carmen Conglose Jr., deputy director of public works, said today.

Meanwhile, the city ordered the demolition contractor not to move anything and to secure the site and suspend work indefinitely.

A steel beam crushed Charles Thomas, 55, of Boardman Street, on Phelps Street just after noon Saturday. The William Pizzuto Co. is tearing down an old parking garage on the site bordered by Front, Phelps, West Boardman and Hazel streets. A private company, Frangos Parking, owns the site.

How this occurred

A crane operator was lifting a beam, called a shroud, which is used to protect streetlight poles from falling demolition debris. The cables became stuck on a piece of wood, and the beam fell.

Thomas and another man were standing on the sidewalk in the vicinity. The men ran in opposite directions when they saw the beam falling. Thomas was hit by the beam.

William Pizzuto, owner of the demolition company, said his workers asked Thomas to leave the area several times before the accident, but the man kept coming back. According to Pizzuto, the area around the demolition site was roped off.

On Friday, the demolition company asked for, and received, the city's permission to close Phelps Street, Conglose said.

A key question will be whether the street was blocked off correctly, he said.

State regulations outline the proper closing of streets, he said.

Keeping bystanders at a distance is a thorny issue in any downtown demolition, Conglose said.

"Unfortunately, in an urban environment, we always have onlookers," he said. "It's somewhat difficult at times to keep people away from the street."

Conglose isn't sure if the city has any role in this case. The city has regulations for controlling demolition debris, dust and how sites are backfilled.

The fatality happened as the contractor was protecting the area outside the site, however, not because of demolition debris.

Safety regulations are state and federal issues, he said.

rgsmith@vindy.com




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