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3 killed in scaffolding collapse in NC

The incident happened at a high-rise construction project; 1 worker seriously injured when scaffolding peeled away from the building


A section of scaffolding protrudes from a shattered window at the scene of a construction accident that killed three people and sent another to a hospital, Monday, March 23, 2015, in Raleigh, N.C. A scaffolding holding at least three workers fell and crashed into the Charter Square project, an 11-story building being built on the south end of Fayetteville Street. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Harry Lynch)

By Jonathan Drew and Michael Biesecker
Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. — A section of scaffolding collapsed Monday at a high-rise construction project in downtown Raleigh, killing three workers and sending another to a hospital.

Jeffrey Hammerstein, community outreach chief for Wake County EMS, said three men died in the accident at the glass and steel building called Charter Square, where scaffolding had peeled away from the exterior and fallen into a parking lot below.

A fourth was taken to the hospital in serious condition. Authorities were working to identify those who died. All were involved in the construction project, Hammerstein said.

Peter Thuston was working inside the building installing a security card reader system when the accident happened.

He said he ran outside to try to help and saw three men in safety harnesses, leading him to believe that they had been attached to the scaffolding.

“It was just a loud crash and a huge cloud of smoke,” said Thuston, 32, of Garner. “I noticed three of the guys and it looked like they were dead.”

He said a fourth man wearing a safety harness was found on a crushed portable toilet, leading Thuston to believe the man had fallen on it. The man was still breathing and had a pulse, but was barely responsive.

Thuston said he had walked inside minutes before the accident.

“That could have been anybody. That could have been me,” he said.

The scaffolding that fell was attached to the side of the new building. One of the tracks had snapped off several stories up and fallen into a twisted heap on the ground below.

State Department of Labor spokesman Neal O’Briant said his agency is investigating the cause. Officials had closed off a wide area around the scene.

A group of men in hard hats and yellow vests, some of which said Associated Scaffolding on them, were talking to an official near the edge of the police line. A woman who answered the phone at the company’s Durham headquarters declined to give her name and said the company had no comment.

According to the state Department of Labor, the construction industry accounts for nearly half of all workplace fatalities in the state, with 19 deaths at construction sites reported in 2014.