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Man killed in fall at uptown tower construction site

1 person killed in fall at uptown tower construction site

One man died Wednesday afternoon in a fall at an uptown Charlotte office building under construction on the former Charlotte Observer site.
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One man died Wednesday afternoon in a fall at an uptown Charlotte office building under construction on the former Charlotte Observer site.

A 24-year-old man died Wednesday afternoon in a fall at an uptown Charlotte office building under construction, authorities said.

Police identified the man late Wednesday as Juventino Mata-Hernandez.

The construction site at 620 South Tryon St. is part of the Legacy Union development, on the former Charlotte Observer site. Workers there are building a 33-story office tower, the majority of which has been leased by Bank of America.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said the first call came in at 3:48 p.m. Medic, Mecklenburg County's paramedic service, confirmed the fatality shortly afterward, at about 4 p.m.

"According to the caller, a male construction worker fell from a building under construction," CMPD investigators said, in a statement. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

Further details weren't immediately available, but workers could be seen gathered outside the building, along with police vehicles and officers.

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Investigators observe the scene of a death in a fall at an uptown Charlotte office building under construction, part of the Legacy Union development, on the former Charlotte Observer site on Wednesday, May 23, 2018. David Foster III dfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Investigators were examining an area concealed by a white sheet and blue tarp, near the base of one of the construction cranes. Representatives from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, known as OSHA, were also on the scene.

Representatives of the developers could not immediately be reached. A spokesman for Rhode Island-based construction firm Gilbane Building Co. said the company is cooperating with authorities to investigate the death.

"We are saddened to report that a fatal accident occurred today involving a worker at the Legacy Union site," said spokesman Wes Cotter. "We're gathering information about exactly what happened. ... We extend our deepest condolences to all those affected."

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Charlotte Mecklenburg Police officers and construction workers gather at the scene where a worker fell to his death on Wednesday. Matt Walsh

The tower is expected to open in 2019, and at 640 feet it will be the fourth-tallest building in Charlotte. Workers have built about 25 floors of the new tower so far. They've been pouring concrete to build the higher floors and installing glass windows on the exterior of the building up to about the 13th floor.

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It's been less than two weeks since the construction workers at Legacy Union simulated dealing with a serious injury at the site.

As part of "Safety Week," Gilbane, developer Lincoln Harris and the Charlotte Fire Department held a drill May 11 to practice rescuing an injured worker (represented by a mannequin) on the 23rd floor of the tower.

Workers on risky construction sites are typically supposed to wear safety harnesses and tethers designed to catch them if they fall, but falls remain the leading cause of death for construction workers, according to OSHA. Falls account for about 40 percent of construction fatalities, and in 2016, falls killed 384 workers in the U.S. A construction worker died in Charlotte last year building a distribution center in Steele Creek, when he fell about 40 feet.

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The site of a death in a fall at an uptown Charlotte office building under construction, part of the Legacy Union development, on the former Charlotte Observer site on Wednesday, May 23, 2018. David Foster III dfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Across North Carolina, state Department of Labor statistics show eight workers have died in falls so far this fiscal year, compared to 11 in fiscal 2017 and 14 in fiscal 2016.

Charlotte-based Lincoln Harris is developing the site in partnership with Goldman Sachs.

The development is one of the largest underway in Charlotte, with future phases expected to include residences, hotels, shops and restaurants. Lincoln Harris and Goldman Sachs bought the site next to Bank of America Stadium in 2016 for about $37.5 million and demolished the former Observer building.

Portillo: 704-358-5041
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