Three Dead in Scaffolding Accident

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construction accidentRaleigh, NC -- Three men are dead following a scaffolding accident at a North Carolina high-rise construction project.

Workers were dismantling a scaffold at a high-rise construction project when tragedy struck.  A piece of the scaffold, connecting it to the building, fell off.  Three men were tethered to the scaffold and died on impact.

A 911 caller told the operator that the men were working on the scaffold when it fell at about 11am.  "We just had a mast climber fall off.  There were men on it," the caller said.

The operator asked if the victims were conscious and the caller said, "No, they're dead."

The accident happened when a subcontractor, Associated Scaffolding, was dismantling the scaffold.  They were only hired to assemble and disassemble the scaffold.

Mike Hampton, Chief Operating Officer for the building's general contractor, Choate Construction Company said, "We are finished using it [the scaffold].  They actually were dismantling that piece when it happened.  It wasn't as if it was business as usual.  They went to work and it collapsed."

The men who died were Jose Erasmo Hernandez, 41, Joe Luis Lopez-Ramirez, 33, and Anderson Almeida, 33.  A fourth victim was sent to the hospital with injuries.  That victim, Elmer Guevara, 53, fell onto a a portable toilet, crushing it.  He was barely responsive, but was breathing and had a pulse.

All men were in safety harnesses.

Associated Scaffolding has had two serious safety violations in the past 10 years.  The 2007 violation said it was related to access equipment for scaffold platforms and the 2008 citation was related to the storage of welding materials.