By Brian Johnson
Dolan Media Newswires
Calling it a “tragic day” in the Vikings stadium project, a Mortenson Construction executive said it’s too early to pinpoint exactly what caused the Wednesday morning accident that killed one worker and seriously injured another on the Vikings stadium project.
The victims, both employed by North St. Paul-based Berwald Roofing, were working on the roof on the north side of the stadium at about 7:45 a.m. Wednesday when the accident occurred, said John Wood, senior vice president of Golden Valley-based Mortenson Construction, which is building the $1.08 billion stadium.
“A man lost his life on this project today and that simply should never happen,” Wood said at a news conference across the street from the downtown Minneapolis site where the stadium is under construction.
“Mortenson holds as its highest priority the safety of the men and women that work so hard every day on this project and we can’t express our sympathy any more strongly to the family and loved ones of these two individuals,” he added.
The workers ages and identities had not been released as of Wednesday afternoon.
Wood said the fatally injured worker fell about 50 feet from the edge of the roof into a snow gutter, which is below the main roof on the 1.75 million-square-foot stadium.
“We understand from the first responders that he was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital,” Wood said. Both workers were taken to the nearby Hennepin County Medical Center.
The injured worker also fell, but didn’t fall off the roof, Wood said. Other than that, Wood said the circumstances that led to the injury aren’t clear. He said that will be reviewed as part of a thorough investigation.
Mortenson will cooperate fully in the investigation by Minnesota OSHA, he said.
“We are very, very early in our efforts to try to understand the details and particulars of this event,” he said.
Asked at the news conference if the workers were wearing safety harnesses, Wood said he “can’t answer that question today. … Those will be essential questions for us to ask in the investigation, but we have not been in a position to conduct that investigation as of yet.”
About 1,200 people are working on the project, including about 25 Berwald Roofing workers. All workers were sent home Wednesday morning, and Wood said the tentative plan is to resume construction Thursday.
Workers were seen leaving the site around 9 a.m.
A representative of Berwald Roofing declined to comment.
“Emergency responders were there within a matter of a few minutes,” Wood said. “The proximity to this hospital obviously ensures that we get immediate response. And I think they did everything possible for both of the individuals.”
The extent of the surviving worker’s injuries was unclear other than he was in serious condition.
The Minneapolis Fire Department responded to the construction site for a “technical rescue,” according to the department’s Twitter feed. The department reported that one worker fell into a crevice and was trapped with injuries.
Fire department responders used a “rescue basket and ropes along with cables” to tie firefighters off to secure the rescue, the department said.
Neither worker was identified, pending notification of their families.
“Today is an extremely sad day for the Minnesota Vikings organization and the entire stadium team,” the team said in a statement. “Our sincere thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the individual who passed away, the worker who remains hospitalized, and the more than 1,000 dedicated construction workers who are on the site every day and are also affected by this accident.”
Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, issued this statement: “We join our partner, Mortenson Construction, to express our sincere condolences to the family of the worker we lost and the one who was injured in this tragic accident this morning. We humbly thank all involved in our project for their efforts each and every and day.”
Mark Conroy, apprenticeship coordinator for the Roofers & Waterproofers Local 96 in Blaine, said, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family. We will follow up with our protocols and go from there.”
The accident at the Vikings stadium site was the second fatality on a local stadium project in the last two years.
In September 2013, 61-year-old Johnny Valek was working on the demolition project to make way for the new St. Paul Saints stadium at Fifth and Broadway streets in St. Paul when a 30-foot-by-10-foot piece of concrete fell onto the cab of his backhoe, killing him instantly.
U.S. Bank Stadium is set to open next year.