US Department of Labor investigates death of teenage worker after Magnolia home collapse

Daniela Hurtado Image
Wednesday, May 29, 2024
Investigation underway into teen construction worker's death
An investigation is underway after teenage worker John Aaron Garcia died when the frame of a new-construction home collapsed in Magnolia on Tuesday.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Two divisions within the U.S. Department of Labor, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, are investigating a deadly building collapse in Magnolia.

It happened at about 1 p.m. on Tuesday off of Willow Heights Lane, claiming the life of a 16-year-old construction worker.

Eyewitnesses told ABC13 they're still processing what happened, saying it could have been any of them.

They said it's scary to think everything can change in a blink of an eye.

As ABC13 works to learn more about the teenager and his family, officials said the OSHA investigation could take months.

On Wednesday, in the construction zone, it was business as usual but with heavier hearts as just 24 hours have passed since the death of the teen construction worker who was trapped under two stories of debris from a home under construction in the Magnolia area.

"The wind came and packed a pretty good punch for these structures that were realistically in a really vulnerable state," Magnolia Fire Department Ct. Bryan Perry said.

The Montgomery County judge confirms to ABC13 that the 16-year-old killed was named John Aaron Garcia.

Jesus Altamirana works on the property and says that when they couldn't find the teen, workers started to call his cell phone, but all they could hear was the eerie ringing.

He details the moment the boy's father showed up at the scene. Altamirana said he was tasked to deliver the tough news to Garcia's father.

As a father himself to a boy around the age of the victim, Altamirana said the moment is etched in his memory after the father shouted desperately to get his son out.

He says Garcia's father even tried to go through the debris pile himself to get his boy out until responders pulled him away.

"You want them to go out and do the right thing, go work, and start being members of society, and it's unfortunate that's exactly what they were trying to do when this tragedy happened," Perry said.

He was a young man with his whole life ahead of him, working a summer job to make an honest living.

Magnolia Fire Department leaders said the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office is investigating this situation, but ABC13 has not heard back from MCSO.

At this point, Eyewitness News is still trying to reach the contractors who hired the teen.

However, the communications team with Westfield Homes sent ABC13 the following statement this afternoon:

"It is with a heavy heart that Westfield Homes addresses the community regarding the recent catastrophic windstorm that struck our new subdivision, resulting in the tragic loss of a member of our construction team this afternoon. At approximately 1 p.m. on Tuesday, an unexpected and powerful windstorm caused significant damage to the area and the collapse of two homes that were in the early frame stages of construction. The associate was present at the construction site at the time of the collapse and sustained significant injuries as a result thereof. We are devastated by the loss of this individual and extend our deepest condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of the deceased. The primary concern of Westfield Homes has been and will continue to be the safety and security of everyone on site. Our team is actively working with local authorities, investigators, and structural engineers to assess the damage and understand the full circumstances of the incident to ensure this type of accident does not reoccur. Safety remains our top priority, and we have full commitment to complying with all applicable standards, rules and regulations. We are also reaching out to provide services and assistance to those affected by this tragedy. We ask for the community's support and understanding as we navigate through this difficult time."

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