A warehouse being demolished to make room for a Columbia University expansion project recently collapsed, burying three construction workers in the rubble. Emergency crews were able to dig through the concrete, steel beams and other debris from the fallen 1915 building and eventually free each of them.
The injured workers were taken to St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital, but one did not survive the fatal accident. Sixty-nine year old Juan Ruiz had been buried up to his chest after the collapse; he later died at the hospital.
Investigators initially blame the collapse on a support beam that was part of the buildings structural support system being cut prematurely. However, the investigation is still ongoing.
The Brooklyn company leading the demolition, Breeze National Inc., has a less-than-perfect past related to construction site accidents and worker safety. Breeze received a stop-work order in early March because it didn't let the City know about the planned demolition and had not put the appropriate safety harnesses in place for workers.
Another Breeze construction worker was killed while working on the Columbia expansion in a construction site fall in 2010. Breeze was cited and fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the fatal construction accident for not having appropriate fall protection in place.
The company is also on a "caution list" with the City of New York. Breeze currently has no contracts with NYC. Columbia required Breeze retain a risk management firm before it was allowed to work on the expansion project.
Source: The New York Times, "Construction Worker Killed in Building Collapse in Manhattan," Al Baker, March 22, 2012