- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 13, 2009

PHILADELPHIA | A tall construction lift toppled over and struck a downtown Philadelphia apartment building Monday, killing a construction worker who fell 125 feet.

Investigators want to know whether the 40-year-old victim was strapped into the bucket of the boom lift as he worked on a church roof near Rittenhouse Square. He may have free-fallen to the ground, they said.

“It doesn’t appear that he was secured properly. We would expect that he was tethered in,” Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said. “We’re trying to find out if that’s the case.”

The cranelike lift apparently tipped over when it rode over a sidewalk grate, causing the grate to give way, Commissioner Ayers said.

The victim’s name was not immediately released pending family notification. He was pronounced dead at Hahnemann University Hospital shortly after 1:30 p.m. A co-worker described him as a married father from southern New Jersey who had worked for their company, Masonry Preservation Group, for more than 20 years.

“He was good people, and he was a safe guy,” said colleague Robert Howard, who arrived on scene from a nearby project.

The lift struck the corner of a five-story apartment building and knocked down a traffic pole before crashing into two parked vehicles on the street.

Three people in cars were treated for minor injuries from falling debris, including a woman in her 70s who suffered a broken arm. Tenants in the 13-unit apartment complex were evacuated, and none was injured.

Tenants have been told they can return at 8 p.m. Monday, according to resident Anna Martin.

“I just heard a really loud crash, and looked out my window and saw the two cars - a car and a truck - smashed in,” said tenant Stephanie Watts, 22, who was at home a floor below the damaged unit.

Maintenance work had been under way for about a week on the roof of the First Presbyterian Church near Rittenhouse Square at the center of an upscale neighborhood.

The lift initially fell relatively slowly, but picked up speed after it struck the building, said witness Robert Lee, a construction worker at an unrelated project nearby.

“He didn’t scream. He was just trying to work the controls,” Mr. Lee said.

Lawyer Gayle Sproul, whose office is across the street, said traffic was lighter than usual, fortunately, because of the Columbus Day holiday.

“The angle of the way it came down it would have just flattened anything on the sidewalk,” she said.

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