Two workers injured in Capitol fall

Men airlifted to Seattle after manlift plunges to ground Monday

Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Two construction workers have been flown to Seattle after being injured Monday morning when a manlift at the Capitol complex toppled and fell two or three stories to the ground.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

The men had been working on a skybridge connecting the Capitol building with the Thomas B. Stewart Legislative Office Building across Seward Street.

The rubber-tire lift, carrying two workers in a basket, was on the steep street, but it was not clear whether the vehicle was moving over the pavement or if the basket was being raised at the time of the collapse, said Richard Etheridge, Division Chief with Capital City Fire Rescue. Etheridge said he was not sure of the cause of the accident, but the rubber-tire lift was not equipped with stabilizers.

The two injured workers were alert and did not appear to have life-threatening injuries, he said. They were transferred to Bartlett Regional Hospital, and from there they were medevaced to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Bartlett's Jim Strader described the men's condition as "guarded," and said "that's along the lines of serious." Strader said patient privacy rules prevented him from saying more about why they were sent to Harborview.

"The doctors in the emergency room made the determination that they needed to be transported," he said.

No one else was injured as the basket crashed into the Capitol Building and a tree. Legislative aides said the impact shook the building, and it was immediately clear the crash was not normal construction work.

An investigation into the accident has already begun, said Grey Mitchell, director of the state Labor Standards and Safety Division. Mitchell said construction companies are required to notify the division in the event of serious accidents, but that was not necessary in this case.

"In this case, the accident was so high profile that we received several calls, and were able to get an investigator over to the site extremely quickly," he said.

Capitol Building maintenance supervisor Don Johnston said the general contractor on the job was Silverbow Construction Co. of Juneau. The nonunion company is owned by Robert and Joan Didier of Douglas. Company officials did not return phone calls Monday.

Mitchell said the investigations are required to be completed within six months, but were typically completed sooner.

Federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration records show Silverbow receiving a total of 15 violations - some labeled "serious" - from seven inspections in the last 10 years. The most recent were three violations in two incidents in 2007.

Etheridge said he did not have the victims' names, but that they were free from the equipment when rescue personnel arrived.

Fire personnel helped with the cleanup of spilled fuel and oil, Etheridge said, and seem to have contained and absorbed what leakage there was before it reached the storm drains.

The Stewart building was formerly known as the Scottish Rite Temple, and informally called the Masonic Building. The city bought it, then sold it for $1 to the Legislature for additional office space. The renovated building is expected to be open in time for the start of the January legislative session.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgeyat 523-2250 or e-mail

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