Video freeze from Sky 11
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Authorities have identified the worker killed in a construction accident on the site of St. Paul's new Lowertown Ballpark Tuesday.
A large cement slab fell and crushed 61-year-old Johnny Valek as he operated heavy equipment on the site of the old Gillette Building, located near the intersection of 5th and Broadway.
"We want to thank everyone for their thoughts, support and prayers today, as we are forced to say goodbye far too soon to John, a beloved father, brother, relative and friend," the family said in a statement.
The family also offered a thank you to the emergency responders, and they offered sympathies to Valek's coworkers.
"John was a truly loving father who was preparing for retirement after more than 25 years of deconstruction experience, specializing in building demolition. He was considered an expert in his field and was highly respected by his peers. While he looked forward to retirement, those feelings paled in comparison to the excitement he held for his daughter's upcoming wedding," the statement said.
First responders were called to the scene about 8 a.m., and quickly knew that Valec did not survive the incident. St. Paul Fire Marshall Steve Zaccard says at that point the job turned from one of rescue to a mission of recovery.
"My heart goes out to the family of the worker who was tragically killed during demolition of the Gillette Building in Lowertown earlier today," said Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. "Construction work can be a dangerous job, and so today I am thankful to all the men and women in construction trades who day in and day out work to make our community a better place."
Valek worked for Rachel Contracting, a subcontractor for Ryan Companies, which is the lead contractor on the ballpark project. An employee at Rachel Contracting told KARE 11 they would have no comment on the fatal incident, and referred reporters to Ryan Companies.
Rachel Contracting was hired to demolish the old Diamond Products building to make room for the ballpark.
Rachel Contracting has been around since 2006 and has worked on other high profile demolition projects like Brookdale Mall.
KARE looked into the safety records of both Rachel Contracting and Ryan Companies. The Minnesota OHSA inspection records for the last five years show several inspections, but no violations for either company.
Ryan Companies even received a recent OSHA safety award for its work on the federal building near Fort Snelling.
For the time being, the job site has been shut down while the St. Paul Fire Department's Tactical Rescue Team works to recover the victim's body. Fire Marshall Zaccard calls it "a very dangerous scene, treacherous, lots of material on the ground."
OSHA is now investigating to determine what caused the accident and whether any OSHA safety standards were violated.
On Tuesday afternoon the St. Paul Saints, who will play in the new ballpark, released a statement.
"There is profound sadness in the St. Paul Saints organization today after learning about the passing of a worker at the Lowertown site. At this time we want to send out our deepest sympathies to the family who lost a loved one in this tragic accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and our entire community on this heartbreaking day."
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