- Associated Press - Thursday, August 27, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The subcontractor involved in a fatal accident at the Minnesota Vikings stadium construction site has received nine citations for worksite safety violations in the past five years, according to public records.

A Berwald Roofing Co. employee was killed Wednesday when he fell about 50 feet at the U.S. Bank Stadium construction site in Minneapolis. Another worker was injured.

Berwald, which has a $3.4 million contract to work on the stadium, has been cited for a number of issues, including failure to use safety harnesses on elevated worksites, Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration records showed.

One of Berwald Roofing’s owners, Eugene Berwald, said Thursday that the company stresses safety on the job, but can’t control the actions of individual workers.

“People do foolish things. They don’t hook up their lanyards,” Berwald said.

He did not know whether the employee who died, 35-year-old Jeramie Gruber of Northfield, was wearing a safety lanyard.

Berwald said that although work has resumed at the construction site, his employees are struggling with what happened and will take the rest of the week off.

“They all know one another,” said Berwald, whose company employs about 160 people. “They’re like a family.”

The other worker suffered a cut to his leg, which required 48 stitches and staples. He was treated at the hospital and has returned home, Berwald said.

In a statement, the company said it’s “fully committed to cooperate with investigators as they determine the cause of the incident. The safety of employees is our highest priority on all of our projects.”

Mortenson Construction, the general contractor overseeing the $1 billion-plus project, also said it was working with OSHA to investigate the accident.

“Our priority is to ensure that we know exactly what happened and ensure that it never happens again. A man lost his life on this project today and that simply never should happen,” Mortenson said in a statement Wednesday.

John Wood, Mortenson’s senior vice president, said hitting the projects tight deadline to get the stadium open in time for the Vikings preseason in August 2016, wasn’t his immediate priority.

“We’re not thinking about the construction schedule right now,” Wood said. “We’re thinking about these two men and their families.”

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