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2 Demolitions, 2 Workers Killed

Thursday, September 12, 2013

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Federal and state safety authorities are investigating a pair of fatal construction accidents this week at demolition sites in St. Paul, MN, and Swoyersville, PA.

Johnny Valek, 61 of Plymouth, MN, was killed about 8 a.m. Tuesday (Sept. 10) while working at the site of a new Saints ballpark in downtown St. Paul, according to reports.

John Brdaric Jr., 60, of Bunker Hill, PA, was killed when the century-old church he was demolishing collapsed on his crane about 11:30 a.m. Monday (Sept. 9) in Swoyersville, reports said.

Factory Collapse

Valek was killed when a 10-by-30-foot concrete portion of a two-story building under demolition crashed down on the cab of his backhoe, according to the Star Tribune, citing authorities.

Johnny Valek
Family photo via Star Tribune

Johnny Valek, 61, had more than 25 years of experience in construction. He told his brother that work at the future site of the Saints ballpark in St. Paul was one of the toughest projects, reports said. A portion of the building crushed him Tuesday.

It took rescuers nearly five hours to recover his body from the rubble, the newspaper said.

Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard told local media that the demolition site’s terrain was “treacherous for rescue.”

The crew had been clearing the site of an old 650,000-square-foot factory.

Tough Job

The Star Tribune reported that Valek—an employee of Rachel Contracting of St. Michael, MN—had previously told his younger brother that work at the site was some of the toughest he had encountered in his more than 25 years in construction.

Valek was said to have specifically commented on the weight of the concrete and the thickness of the walls of the building under demolition, the report said.

Companies Involved

Subcontractor Rachel Contracting was performing excavation work for the general contractor, Ryan Companies, at the site of the new ballpark.

Rachel Contracting is a heavy civil contractor that performs earthwork, demolition, environmental utilities and alternative energy site work in Minnesota and neighboring states. The company did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday (Sept. 11).

However, Collin Barr, Ryan’s president, said that his company was saddened by the accident and that safety was taken “very, very seriously,” reports said.

Authorities from Minnesota’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration have launched an investigation into the accident.

Neither company has a record of past safety violations, according to a review of OSHA’s online database.

Owner Trapped, Killed

The day before Valek’s death, a fatal demolition accident occurred in Swoyersville, PA.

John Brdaric
Family photo via The Citizen's Voice

John Brdaric, Jr., the owner of Brdaric Excavating Inc., had also been operating excavator equipment tearing down a church when the structure collapsed on top of him. His father also died in an demolition accident, reports said.

According to numerous local reports, excavation activities were ongoing at St. Mary’s Church when a portion of the century-old structure collapsed on Brdaric, trapping him beneath the debris.

Brdaric, the owner of Brdaric Excavating Inc. of Luzerne, PA, had also been operating excavator equipment at the time of the collapse, according to images and videos from the scene.

Workers rushed to where the victim was located, using saws to free him from the rubble, according to reports. He was transported to a local hospital where he died from multiple injuries, reports said.

Church collapse
@Larareports / Twitter

The St. Mary demolition project, which began Monday, has been halted while authorities investigate the accident.

Authorities said the accident had been widely witnessed and that members of the police, fire and street departments had been on the scene at the time, reports related. At least two witnesses captured video of the church collapse and accident on their cell phones.

Family Tragedy

In 1991, Brdaric’s father, John Paul Brdaric, was also killed in a demolition accident, according to local reports.

The business owner was well-respected in the area; a friend and neighbor referred to him as the “king of demolition,” in a report on Pahomepage.com.

OSHA is investigating the incident.

The company, which provides residential and commercial excavation services according to its website, does not have a past record of violations with the safety regulators.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Construction; Demolition; Fatalities; OSHA; Renovation

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