Wall collapse injures construction workers

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

Two construction workers were hurt Friday when a house wall they were erecting fell on them.

Ian Dewey and Andrew Francis were both transported to Fletcher Allen Health Care following the accident. Dewey’s condition was considered the more serious of the two workers. He had suspected internal injuries, according to Jim Hendry of the Williston Fire Department.

Dewey was still hospitalized at Fletcher Allen on Monday. He was listed in fair condition. No more details on his injuries were available. Francis suffered an apparent broken ankle, Hendry said.

Hendry said the incident had the potential to end worse than it did.

“They were both lucky,” Hendry said. “They easily could have been killed.”

Dewey and Francis were working at the house on Overlake View, which is off Old Creamery Road, around midday when they lost control of the exterior wall they were raising into place on the deck of the second floor. Two other construction workers were present, but it was not clear whether they were helping raise the wall or not.

When the workers lost control of the wall, it apparently fell toward them and then slid off the deck and dropped about 12 feet to the ground, according to Hendry. Dewey was struck by the wall and knocked to the ground, Hendry said. The wall landed in a leaning position, propped against the first floor of the house. Dewey lay injured in the space created between the wall and the house, Hendry said.

Hendry said one of Dewey’s fellow workers went under the wall to tend to Dewey and felt it slipping. The worker then braced the wall. When fire and rescue personnel arrived, they further stabilized the wall.

Dewey departed in an Essex ambulance about 20 minutes before Francis left on a South Burlington ambulance.

Francis’ injury occurred when the wall initially fell and temporarily pinned his ankle, said Hendry, who added that Francis’ ankle appeared broken. While rescue personnel prepared to move Francis, the other two construction workers lingered nearby, talking to fire and police officials and apparently looking for a way to help.

Francis Construction Co. in Colchester employed the workers building the house. Gary Francis, who is Andrew’s brother, owns the business, Hendry said. Francis Construction is a subcontractor on the construction project, according to Hendry.

Fire officials contacted the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate the accident. Hendry said the investigators are called whenever there is a question about whether proper workplace safety procedures have been followed.

George Walker, the state occupational safety compliance officer who reported to the scene, did not return a message seeking comment on the status of the investigation.

Hendry said a University of Vermont rescue vehicle broke down en route to the scene. However, a South Burlington ambulance soon took its place. Overlake View, a quiet residential street, was lined with fire, police and rescue vehicles for nearly an hour.