Weekly Toll

This week: Two construction workers electrocuted, tree cutting, traffic crashes, mining, shootings. On average, almost 100 workers are killed every week in the United States due to traumatic injuries suffered at work. Over 20 times as many die from occupational diseases, many due to exposure to hazardous substances many years before they died, or from COVID-19 acquired at work. The few narratives below (gathered from almost 100 Google News searches) do not come close to capturing the full toll that work takes on the working people of this country — even in normal years, much less during the COVID pandemic. Nevertheless the accounts below gave you a taste of the preventable carnage occurring in workplaces across the country every day.

Names of 2 construction workers killed in Short Pump released

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — Two construction workers were killed and a third construction worker was injured at a home construction site in Short Pump Thursday morning. First responders were called to a fire along the 4500 block of Bacova Club Court, off of Liesfield Farm Drive near Short Pump Middle School, at about 8:15 a.m. When firefighters arrived on the scene they saw three men on the ground and a piece of scaffolding used to put up siding in contact with powerlines near the home. “Somehow the scaffolding was in contact with the powerline,” Henrico Assistant Chief and Fire Marshal Henry Rosenbaum said. “What we’re trying to determine, in talking with the other workers that were on scene, is how did it end up in that fashion.” Two men, 34-year-old Juan Carlos Moreno-Romero and 18-year-old Oscar Rosales, were pronounced dead at the scene, officials said. The third man was transported to VCU Medical Center with electrical burns on his arms and legs.

Police report identifies worker killed in job site accident on I-95

Rocky Mount, NC — The Telegram has obtained the name of the construction worker who was killed as a result of an on-the-job injury Tuesday morning where crews have been working to build the future Interstate 95 interchange for Sunset Avenue in the far western part of the city. Gary Lee Culbertson Jr., 51, is identified in a city police report of the incident as the victim. The state Labor Department is investigating. The worker was employed by Sanford Contractors, which is based in Sanford. According to a copy of county emergency radio traffic obtained by the Telegram, the radio dispatcher said crew members had been hammering in the pylons for the future improved Sunset Avenue crossing over I-95. Something on top of one of the pylons — about 20 to 30 feet in the air — came off and struck the worker on top of the head, the radio dispatcher said via the county emergency radio traffic. The first reports via the county emergency radio traffic told of trauma and cardiac arrest having occurred.

Truck driver killed in massive I-81 crash in Rockbridge County identified

FAIRFIELD, VA — State police have released additional information about an pre-dawn chain reaction crash on Wednesday that closed southbound lanes of Interstate 81 in northern Rockbridge County for 10 hours and resulted in a fatality. The crash occurred at 6:11 a.m. at mile marker 198 when a 2015 Honda Civic made an “unsafe” lane shift, moving from the left lane to the right lane, traveling at a low speed and driving without lights, state police said. The Civic was struck by a tractor-trailer, which jackknifed and was struck by multiple vehicles and tractor-trailers. Eight vehicles were involved, four tractor-trailers and four passenger vehicles. The driver of a 2016 Freightliner tractor-trailer, Consorcio Velasco-Nolasco, 63, of Alvarado, Texas, was wearing his seat belt and died at the scene. His truck crashed into the jackknifed tractor-trailer and then was struck by at least one passenger vehicle and another tractor-trailer.

Details Emerge in Case of NY Aide Who Died in School Bus Collision With State Trooper

Dutchess County, NY — The school bus driver involved in a deadly crash with a New York State Police vehicle in Dutchess County earlier this week allegedly failed to stop at a stop sign while entering a highway, triggering the collision, state police said Friday. It was the first update on the investigation since Wednesday when NYSP said it couldn’t share additional details on the case because it was being reviewed by the New York attorney general’s office. The crash happened Tuesday just after 3 p.m. on Route 55 and South Cross Road in Lagrange, killing 59-year-old school bus monitor Robin Alvarez, of East Fishkill.

OSHA investigating death of construction worker injured in accident in downtown Stillwater

Stillwater, MN — If Terry Westemeier wasn’t working, he was fixing his truck so he could go back to work the next day. “He never really stopped working,” his son, Brent, said Thursday. Terry Westemeier, gravely injured last week in a construction accident in downtown Stillwater, died Saturday at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. It was his 55th birthday. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was notified of his death Monday and is investigating, said OSHA spokesman James Honerman. The accident occurred around 1 p.m. March 2 in the 200 block of Chestnut Street East, according to Stillwater police. A $24.5 million luxury apartment complex is being built on the site of the former Chestnut Building, a block west of Main Street. Westemeier, the owner of PIC Hydro-Vac, was using a high-powered vacuum hose to suck dirt from a large hole on the construction site, according to police reports. Workers discovered Westemeier’s hard hat near the edge of the hole and found him stuck to and hanging from the vacuum hose inside the hole, according to police reports. Workers turned off the hose, called 911 and started CPR, police said.

Truck driver killed in York County crash

YORK COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania State Police have identified the truck driver who was killed in a single-vehicle accident earlier this week in York County. State Police say on Monday afternoon, 47-year-old Leonard Montgomery of Baltimore was driving north on Woodbine Road. While traveling around a corner downhill the truck struck a guardrail on the north side of a bridge. Montgomery’s Mack Truck overturned and slid on the driver’s side the length of the bridge. State Police say the driver side compartment struck a concrete bridge abutment where the vehicle came to a rest.

Douglas County Sheriff identifies victim in tree-cutting death

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Neb. (WOWT) – One worker was killed and another seriously injured during a tree-cutting incident Wednesday. According to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, deputies and Bennington Fire and Rescue were sent to the area of 162nd and Ida Street at 2:37 p.m. in response to an injured person. They say a tree had fallen on two workers with a tree-cutting crew. Deputies found Mathew Thompson of Yutan, Neb. unresponsive and pinned under a large tree. Thompson was pronounced dead at the scene. The other worker hit by the tree was alert and suffered what deputies believed to be a broken leg or ankle. The injured worker was transported to a hospital. The Sheriff’s Office says the crew was working for Valley Corp and clearing an area for a construction project. While clearing the area, workers attempted to cut down a large tree, which then fell in the opposite direction that was intended and hit two of the workers. The tree fell directly on Thompson, killing him.

Young truck driver killed after crash into Pittsylvania County lumber yard

PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. (WSET) — A young man died Monday in a crash in Pittsylvania County. Virginia State Police responded to the single-vehicle crash on Route 58, about a mile east of Ringgold Depot Road around 2:20 p.m. Troopers say a 2022 Volvo tractor-trailer was eastbound on Route 58 when it left the right side of the road, struck a fence, then struck a stack of wooden pallets in the parking lot of a lumber yard. The driver of the semi was identified as Melquavis Keyarvis Turnipseed, 21, of Mantee, Mississippi.

Worker dies at site of new Wichita water plant

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A worker died at the construction site for the new Wichita Northwest Water Facility Thursday morning. It happened around 9:30 at 5232 W. 21st St., near I-235 and Zoo Boulevard. A spokesperson for Wichita Water Partners did not provide details about what happened. Meghan Jansen said they are working closely with investigators, and all work has been stopped on the site until further notice. Jansen did not provide the name, age, or hometown of the victim. She said the man was an employee of a subcontractor.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the victim was 55-year-old Manuel Esparza of Wichita, a superintendent for UCI Industrial Construction Services.

Tow truck driver, another driver killed in Route 22 crash

Readington, NJ — A tow truck driver was struck and killed by a vehicle whose driver also later died Tuesday following a collision on the median of Route 22 in Readington, authorities said. The 26-year-old tow truck driver, Seth Newton, was out of his truck working to remove a disabled vehicle when he was hit by a westbound SUV that veered onto the median shortly after 3 p.m., Readington police said Wednesday.

42-year-old man ID’d as construction worker killed in Pinson work site accident

Pinson, AL — Authorities have released the name of a construction worker killed early Thursday in a workplace accident in a Pinson subdivision. The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office identified the victim as Eleazar Rivera Coronado. He was 42 and lived in Alabaster. The accident happened at 6:53 a.m. at 6930 Brandy Circle in Pinson. Chief Deputy Coroner Bill Yates said Rivera sustained blunt force injuries at a construction site when he was struck by a machine pouring a concrete foundation for a residence in the Innsbrook subdivision. Rivera was pronounced dead on the scene at 7:13 a.m.

Benicia store worker killed during robbery

Benicia, CA — The Benicia Police Department is investigating a homicide that happened on Tuesday evening. At about 10:04 p.m., officers responded to an alarm call at a business in the 2000 block of Columbus Parkway. BPD found a man,  owner Bahadur Singh, 60, who was working at the business, unresponsive with an apparent gunshot wound. Responding paramedics pronounced the man deceased at the scene. The suspect left the scene prior to the officers’ arrival. BPD said it believes that the shooting happened during a suspected robbery. “We are deeply saddened by this senseless violence that happened in our community,” Police Chief Mike Greene said in a news release. “We have detectives and every available resources working to identify the suspect.”

Second Joplin officer won’t recover from shooting

Joplin, MO — A Joplin, Missouri, police officer who was shot along with two other officers this week “will not recover” from his injuries, Police Chief Sloan Rowland said Thursday. Rowland announced that patrol officer Jake Reed’s family said he was being prepared to donate organs. “We’re so proud, so thankful and forever in debt for his service to this community. … Jake is an outstanding young man,” Rowland said. Cpl. Benjamin Cooper died after being shot in the initial confrontation on Tuesday. A third officer, Rick Hirshey, was also shot and was in serious but stable condition Thursday, Rowland said. Reed joined the police force in 2017. He and Cooper were among the first officers to confront 40-year-old Anthony Felix at a shopping mall in Joplin Tuesday afternoon. Felix shot the two officers, stole a patrol car and fled.

Tow truck driver hit by car dies

Champaign, IL — The tow truck driver who was struck on the job Saturday night has died, according to the St. Joseph – Stanton Fire Protection District where he worked as a volunteer. The fire department identified the victim as Ross Booker, a 20-year-old graduate of St. Joseph-Ogden who worked at Tatman’s Towing. Booker was cleaning up debris in the roadway when he was hit. The preliminary investigation indicated that the driver who hit the operator failed to change lanes. That driver, a 16-year-old from Tolono, cooperated with officers at the scene and was released with a ticket for violating Scott’s Law. Scott’s Law mandates that drivers slow down when approaching stationary emergency vehicles with lights activated and change lanes if able.

Authorities identify truck driver killed after veering off road and crashing into tree

SAN JOSE, CA — A truck driver who died from his injuries two days after he veered off the roadway and crashed into a tree has been identified by authorities. The collision was reported at about 6:10 a.m. March 1 on White Road near Quimby Road, according to a San Jose Police Department news release. A man, identified as 33-year-old Ryan Matthew Olander of Shingletown, was driving south in a 2014 Ford F-150 truck on White, police said. The truck left the roadway and veered into the median, crashing into a tree. Olander was taken to a hospital, where he died Thursday. The death marked the city’s 19th roadway fatality of the year, according to police.

Coroner: ‘Freak accident’ likely to blame for miner’s death

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – A “freak accident” was likely to blame for a miner’s death in Somerset County on Wednesday, Cambria County Coroner Jeffrey Lees said Thursday. While state and federal mine investigators are still investigating the incident, it was clear on Thursday that a 6-foot-tall boulder broke away from an underground mine’s wall early Wednesday, causing the injuries that killed 44-year-old Paul Springer, of Somerset, the coroner said. “The rock, which had probably been there for hundreds of years … broke from the wall and fell where he was standing,” Lees said, adding that the rock pinned the man against a piece of machinery. The accident occurred three miles underground inside LCT Energy’s Maple Springs Mine near Hollsopple.

Coroner releases name of man killed in dump truck crash

York County, PA — The York County Coroner’s Office has released the name of a driver who died in a dump truck crash in southern York County on Monday. Leonard Montgomery Jr., 47, of Baltimore, died at the scene of the crash in Peach Bottom Township, according to a report from the coroner’s office. At 12:40 p.m. Monday, Montgomery was driving his dump truck for work when he failed to negotiate a curve near Woodbine Road and Quiet Stream Lane, the report said. He lost control of the truck and it overturned on the driver’s side, hitting a guardrail and trapping him.

One thought on “The Weekly Toll: Death in the Workplace”
  1. I was struck by the number of Hispanic names in the list of deceased. It’s a reality in this country, that if you hear construction noise on a holiday or late in the evening, when most construction workers have long gone home, it’s likely to be Hispanic workers. Pondering the fact that these workers make up a huge portion of our construction trades’ labor force, pisses me off (again) that Conservatives have such disdain, so little appreciation and compassion for these men and women.

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