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State begins probe in demolition death


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POSTED: Tuesday, May 19, 2009

State labor safety officials are investigating the death Saturday of a demolition worker crushed in the collapse of a 120-foot tower in Campbell Industrial Park.

While the city medical examiner has classified the death as accidental, officials are looking at procedures before the collapse to determine whether safety guidelines were followed during the demolition.

Juan Jose Navarro, 54, of El Monte, Calif., died of multiple “;crush injuries”; due to the collapse of the tower, the medical examiner said.

Navarro, who worked for AG Transport of California, and another man were preparing the tower at a Hawaiian Cement Co. facility to fall to the north, a fire official said.

Suddenly, at 8:10 a.m., they heard a pop or creak, indicating the structure was going to fall.

Both men began to run out. The other man was able to escape, but Navarro, who ran back into the tower, was buried under the structure, which collapsed to the west, the fire official said.

State Deputy Labor Director Colleen LaClair said yesterday the investigation will probably take a few months before a decision is made whether there were any health and safety violations.

“;It's a very intense and somewhat complex investigation,”; she said.

LaClair said that if there were health and safety violations, citations could be issued and fines imposed.

She said two occupational safety investigators have been assigned to the case.

Hawaiian Cement Vice President Michael Coad said his firm will cooperate with the contractor and state labor investigators.

“;We're very saddened by the fatality that occurred on our property,”; Coad said.

Coad said his firm had no direct part in the incident and had hired AG Transport to do the demolition work. He said before Navarro's death, the firm had no employee with lost time due to an accident for seven years.

“;We take safety very seriously,”; Coad said.

He said the tower was a part of an old cement plant that had not been used in a decade.