A man was crushed Wednesday morning when a concrete slab weighing 30,000 to 40,000 pounds fell on him at a construction site for an apartment complex in Southeast Austin.
Emergency crews responded around 9:14 a.m. to reports of a man trapped under a slab just inside a fenced-off site at Wickersham Lane and Cromwell Circle. Rescuers initially were unable to get to the victim, who was pinned under the slab as it leaned against a tractor-trailer sitting under a crane.
Firefighters got to work with sledgehammers, drills and other tools to cut away at the slab and free the man, but when they finally reached him, he was dead. Authorities did not identify the man.
Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services crews pronounced him dead at 10:01 a.m.
Austin Fire Department Division Chief Palmer Buck said the slab was a preformed concrete panel for a parking garage being built on the site. Exactly how the man became trapped under the slab wasn’t immediately known.
Victor Arocha, a teenager who lives in an apartment complex across Wickersham, said he and his parents heard a loud crash in the morning and then sirens.
He came outside with his mother and saw first responders surrounding a large pile of concrete, he said.
“It’s terrifying,” Arocha said. “When I saw the crime scene van, I just (thought), ‘I don’t think this guy made it at all.’”
Cadence McShane Construction Co. signs mark the site, where developers are building the Edison apartment complex near East Riverside Drive and Pleasant Valley Road.
“We are deeply saddened by the death of a subcontractor’s worker at the Austin construction site this morning and extend our deepest sympathies to his family and co-workers,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon. “Along with other companies working at the site, we are assisting the proper authorities who are investigating this incident.”
Construction of the Edison is part of the ongoing redevelopment of the East Riverside Drive corridor. The developer, Presidium Group, began building the parking garage last month. The first of the planned 353 upscale apartment units were due to open in May or June 2018, Presidium’s senior vice president of development, Nathan Vargo, told the American-Statesman last month.
On Wednesday, authorities said the construction was on hold while investigators sorted through the rubble.
Austin police and federal investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will look into the deadly incident.
OSHA statistics show that more than 4,500 workers die on the job each year. From Jan. 12 through April 27, the agency recorded more than 70 worker deaths in Texas, according to online records.
A construction worker in Williamson County died in January when he was run over by his own backhoe after he was thrown from it on Pearson Road, authorities said at the time. The man had been working on a county construction project to extend Pearson Road to Texas 45.
Last August, a construction worker in Lockhart died after a construction trench collapsed. Another person was also injured in the incident, authorities said.