Federal crews probing Rice wall collapse

June 20, 2008 5:41:43 PM PDT
Federal investigators were on the scene Friday of a deadly wall collapse on the campus of Rice University. It happened during Thursday afternoon's strong storms. Construction there has temporarily been put to a halt as federal investigators try to get a better feel for what happened. Meanwhile, we've learned the man who was killed in the accident is 41-year-old Juan Romero of Missouri City. He was a block mason with a subcontractor called Lucia, Incorporated.

Only rubble remains on a portion of the second floor of what is one day to be the McMurty College dorm. Authorities say high winds brought down four masonry walls there Thursday afternoon.

"We saw the storm coming in and we packed up," said one construction worker who didn't want to be identified.

That worker was just heading home from another construction project when the collapse happened. He asked us not to show his face for fear that he'd be fired for talking. He says violent storms can easily cause damage at a construction site and wonders if the foreman there took adequate precautions.

"Whenever they saw the storm coming in, they should have packed up and got out of there," he told us.

Romero was killed and seven others injured. A spokesman for Rice University says all those involved were subcontractors for Linbeck Construction. USA Rebar is one of those companies. Owner Andrew Vargas tells us shortly before the collapse, he pulled 14 of his workers off the job site to ensure their safety. He says that as soon as weather starts getting bad, they pull people out.

OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Hazards Association was there Friday investigating. They're going through the construction site, looking for anything that might tell them more about why those walls collapsed.

A spokesperson tells us they will look at a variety of things, including the site itself and the equipment there. they'll talk to employees and review their training records.

Linbeck Construction has an excellent safety record. They say employee safety is their top priority.

      Headlines at a glance | News in your community | RSS feeds
              Slideshow archive | ABC13 wireless | Help solve crimes


Load Comments