Construction worker dies in concrete wall collapse

Construction worker dies in concrete wall collapseCause of accident that killed Gastonia man unknown A Gaston County man working at a construction site near Charlotte/Douglas International Airport was killed Tuesday after a 45,000-pound concrete wall fell on top of him.The victim, identified by police as 28-year-old Douglas Garris of Gastonia, was one of about 25 workers building a multipurpose facility on Horseshoe Lane about 10:30 a.m.A co-worker who asked not to be identified said the man was a Penhall Co. contract employee who cut and drilled holes in concrete.”It was his first day at this site,” the worker said.The accident victim was talking during the attempted rescue, but later died at Carolinas Medical Center, officials said.Garris’ death was the third construction site fatality related to a collapsed wall in the Charlotte area in just over a year.Two construction workers were killed and a third man was injured last year when a concrete wall fell at a site on Concord Mills Boulevard. The N.C. Division of Occupational Safety and Health is trying to determine what caused the 29-foot wall to fall.After co-workers tried unsuccessfully to move the wall using two backhoes, Charlotte firefighters arrived. They used shovels to dig holes under the fallen wall.Firefighters placed two airbags under opposite sides of the wall, inflating them about an inch at a time. It took about 15 minutes to free him.Even before freeing Garris, firefighter Scott Stiles tried to keep him calm.”I could see his head, part of his face and a little bit of his shoulders,” Stiles said. “I tried to reassure him that we were doing everything we could.”Stiles said Garris tried to respond, but drifted in and out of consciousness as firefighters scooped dirt away from the man’s mouth and strapped an oxygen mask on his face.Workers at the Airport Commerce Center – just behind the building under construction – heard the fall.”It sounded like an explosion,” said Robert Gneda. He went outside and watched the rescue efforts, as a hospital trauma helicopter landed in a nearby parking lot.The similar accident occurred in March of last year at a Discount Tire Co. store, 8521 Concord Mills Blvd., near the Cabarrus-Mecklenburg county line.Douglas Builders was cited for safety violations and fined more than $3,000 by the state.While OSHA has not determined the cause of Tuesday’s accident, agency spokesman Greg Cook said investigators will focus on similar issues.Cook said they will check whether the wall was properly braced. Each of the 100 or so concrete slabs was supported by two steel rods.Investigators will also check whether there were established safety zones around the wall.It was not clear Tuesday whether the subcontractor, Penhall Co., or the general contractor, Ediface Inc., had been cited in the past, he said.In 1999, 47 people were killed in accidents at construction sites in North Carolina – part of a steady increase in recent years attributed to a rise in construction.

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