- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 31, 2002

A steel beam fell 11 stories from a construction site in the District yesterday morning and crashed through the driver's side rear window of Jeff Pargament's car, leaving him shaken though he walked away from the scene without a scratch.
"This guy is the luckiest guy in the city today," said D.C. Fire Department spokesman Alan Etter, adding that the 13-foot-long, 150-pound beam missed hitting Mr. Pargament's head by a few inches.
Mr. Pargament, 44, of Potomac, said he was at 19th and H streets, on the way to his law office in Northwest at 9:50 a.m. when he heard yells on the street and felt something hit his car.
"I assumed I had been hit by a car or truck. After the initial shock, I saw there was a beam sticking through the car," said Mr. Pargament, a married father of two.
The steel beam crashed through the driver's side rear window of his Mercedes E 420, cutting through the seat and the floorboard.
The steel beam was being lifted by a crane at street level up to the 11th story at the 1900 Pennsylvania Ave. NW site, where workers were supposed to take it from its cradle and secure it in place, said Mr. Etter.
The beam slipped out of a worker's grip and plummeted toward the street, striking a piece of concrete before crashing into Mr. Pargament's car.
A stunned woman in the car behind Mr. Pargament's called 911. A number of pedestrians and passers-by expressed concern and amazement that he was not injured, he said.
Mr. Etter said emergency workers who responded to the scene found Mr. Pargament to be fine, except for elevated blood pressure.
"I told my family that I was OK and that we were quite fortunate," said Mr. Pargament, who went to his office, then to a hospital to have doctors check him out as a precaution. "I'm a little sore and I'm not sure why that is," he said.
Several hours after the near-tragedy, he said he was still in shock. "I'm pretty shook up," he said.
Mr. Pargament said he had mixed emotions about the incident. While he was relieved and grateful to have been so lucky, he was also angry. "How could this have occurred? I want to make sure this does not happen again. This could have been a tragic situation for me or someone else."
R. Harris Welding was held responsible for the incident, which Mr. Etter called a "freak accident." Robert Harris, owner of R. Harris Welding, said he was not at the site at the time of the accident and did not know exactly what happened. He said the steel beam was the last piece to be installed at the building.
"Two-hundred pieces and the last piece fell off," he lamented. The workers involved were removed from the site immediately, he said, but would continue to work for R. Harris at other sites.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was called to the scene and investigate to prevent future accidents at other sites, said Mr. Etter.
Mr. Pargament said he plans to follow up with OSHA, but has not yet considered legal action.

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