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Accident Kills Worker

cond man hurt as scaffolding falls at construction site

Sep 10, 2003 | Cherry Hill Courier Post

A Delran man finishing work on a new Camden County College building was killed Tuesday morning when he was hit in the head by a steel pole and knocked off a scaffold, police said.

Donatius J. McMahon, 44, leaves behind two daughters ages 6 and 9, as well as his wife, Bobbie, who was still in disbelief hours after the incident.

"I'm still waiting for the director to yell cut," Bobbie McMahon said Tuesday evening.

The incident happened about 11:15 a.m. at an eight-story building under construction just off Cooper Street and Broadway.

A 40-year-old man from Wapwallopen, Pa., who was standing on the same scaffold, suffered a broken arm and other unspecified injuries. The man, whose name was not released, was in stable condition Tuesday at Cooper University Hospital, police said.

The Camden County Prosecutor's Office has ruled the incident an accident. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating.

McMahon and the Pennsylvania man had finished installing windows and were disassembling scaffolding, authorities said. They were removing metal pieces from the top of the structure to the bottom.

While they were about 30 feet off the ground, a 4-foot steel mast which had been used to support the scaffolding they had disassembled broke loose above them, authorities said. It struck McMahon in the head and hit the other man in the arm.

The scaffold tipped to the right, dumping the men and their materials to the ground and into a perimeter fence.

"The thing just popped," said Carmen Myers of Camden, who was on her way to Philadelphia via the Benjamin Franklin Bridge pedestrian walkway near the construction site when the accident happened.

"(McMahon) was trying to hold on, and he slid down and all the equipment fell on him," a crying Myers said.

McMahon was a four-year member of Philadelphia Local 252 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, his wife said. He was working for King Glass Co. of Scranton, Pa., a subcontractor for Turner Construction of Philadelphia.

"He was a great dad and he was a great union worker," she said. "That was his life."

Construction of the eight-story, $20 million building has been under way for more than a year and is 95 percent complete, officials said. It will include six levels of parking, one floor of retail space and one floor for Camden County College computer classrooms.

Minutes after the accident, shocked workers stared at the scaffold, which was tipped at about an 80-degree angle with blood staining its side.

It was not immediately known if the workers were wearing helmets or tethers, Camden County Prosecutor Vincent P. Sarubbi said.

Each year, 50 people die and 4,500 more are injured in scaffold-related accidents, OSHA said. Workers being struck by falling objects was a primary cause of such accidents.

The OSHA office in Marlton will examine specifically how the men were taking the scaffold down, said Gary Roskoski, OSHA's area director.

Representatives also will interview employees and witnesses, Roskoski said. A report and possible citations will be issued within six months.

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