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New information in Galveston hotel demolition death

New information was released this week following the fatal accident that took place during the demolition of the historic Flagship Hotel in Galveston, Texas, on April 26. Documents acquired under the Texas Public Information Act reveal that the 65-year-old worker who was crushed by demolition rubble had been sent in to unsafe conditions to retrieve a fuel can.

The Galveston Daily News was able to obtain documents from the city of Galveston which said that the worker was in a place that he should not have been during the demolition when a 1,000-pound concrete slab came loose and fell on top of him.

A letter from a structural engineer who was consulted by the city to investigate the demolition indicated that nothing had gone wrong with the demolition; rather, there were workers in an unsafe area and that is what led to the fatal accident.

The worker who was killed was employed by Grant MacKay Demolition, which explained in a letter to the city, also obtained by The Daily News, why two workers had been in the unauthorized area.

"When I scanned the [demolition] area, I noticed two yellow fuel cans close to the edge of the raised first floor slab," the letter from Grant MacKay said. "I immediately became concerned ... that the second floor might collapse on these cans and this could result in an explosion or environmental hazard," he wrote.

At that point, the letter states that Grant MacKay yelled two men to retrieve the gas can, but to do so with a shovel instead of actually going under the slab. The employer alleges that the workers either did not hear these instructions to use a shovel or ignored them, and that's when it became evident that the slab was going to fall.

People began yelling at the workers to get out of there, the letter said. One worker, upon hearing the warnings, was able to jump free but the 65-year-old reportedly did not move and was crushed.

It is likely that a wrongful death lawsuit will result in this case, with a thorough investigation to determine the exact events that led up to the worker being crushed. But these letters provide all the evidence necessary to suggest that the employer could be at least partially responsible for the accident.

Source: The Daily News, "AG orders city to release documents on fatality," Chris Paschenko, Sept 19, 2011.

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