ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – Two construction workers are dead after falling down an elevator shaft in downtown St. Louis, and Wednesday they were identified.
The accident occurred inside the Old Shoe Company building in the 1500 block of Washington Avenue around 11:15 a.m. Monday.
City of St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards told reporters at the scene 44-year-old Joey Hale and 58-year-old Ben Ricks were cutting pipe when the cable snapped and they fell down six floors in the elevator shaft. They were reportedly inside a basket that was connected to a safety cable when the incident occurred.
Earlier reports indicated the workers were wearing safety harnesses but officials told News 4 the harnesses were connected to the basket itself to prevent injury or death if the basket falls.
During a press conference shortly after the incident, Edwards said the building was inspected 10 days ago and there were no known concerns at the time of the inspection
The building was still in the demolition phase of a $25 million renovation project to be converted into a hotel by Fe Equus, a Milwaukee based development company.
Workers with World Wrecking, a subcontractor for Gencorp Services that works on demolition and asbestos abate, were involved in the accidents. OSHA was called to the project site for a complaint involving Gencorp in 2013, the agency said.
According to OSHA, several health-related claims were investigated, including the improper disposal of asbestos and failure to wear protective gear while handling asbestos.
News 4 spoke with the company’s owner who said he is devastated by the loss of not only his employees but his best friends.
“I lost two of my best friends. I was supposed to be in that elevator shaft with them,” said Keith Hanford, the owner of World Wrecking.
Ricks' brother Odessie remembers getting a call that he would never forget.
"I said no, God, no. I could not even talk to him. I threw the phone on the floor. i said no it is not true," said Odessie. "Can't do nothing to bring my brother back man."
Hanford said he couldn’t give any more information today but added that they always follow safety procedures. Hale and Ricks were St. Louis residents, living in the 3700 block of Potomac and the 4000 block of Peck, respectively.
They were not union workers according to the St. Louis Labor Council President Pat White. But White said, either way, it is a sad day for those in the construction business.
“Anyone who’s been on a construction site knows that you’re taking your life in your hands pretty much every day,” said White.
The St. Louis Fire Department has turned over the scene to OSHA and Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson has terminated any work to be done at this site until further notice.
"What we're going to look at it is what kind of procedures they were involved with. OSHA is on scene and they've taken control to look at everything around, how it was installed," Jenkerson said, "What kind of demolition they were doing, whether it was cutting or dismantling piece of equipment inside the shaft."
Owner of Fe Equus Development Tim Dixon released the following statement:We are devastated to learn the news of today's tragic accident. Our hearts go out to the families of these individuals. We are working with the authorities to determine the cause. In the meantime, our focus now remains on the families involved. At this time, funeral services for both men are still pending.
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