OSHA Fines Contractors Over Collapse

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Contractors in the construction of the Berkman Plaza II parking garage that collapsed in December, killing one man, have been cited for nine violations by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In a report released Tuesday, OSHA proposed $192,800 in fines for the two contractors involved in the construction.

The six-story garage being built on East Adams Street collapsed before dawn on Dec. 6 as workers were placing concrete. Two dozen workers were trapped in the rubble. All but one was rescued during a 48-hour search using specialized urban search teams from around the Southeast.

Willie Edwards III, 26, died in the collapse.

The general contractor, Choate Construction Inc., was cited for a willful violation that carries a $49,500 fine. Choate said it plans to contest the citations.

Southern Pan Services Co., the concrete framework contractor, was cited for two willful violations and faces a proposed $125,000 penalty.

A third contractor, A.A. Pittman and Sons, the employer of all those injured, was cited only for inadequate recordkeeping. OSHA proposed $3,600 in penalties for Pittman.

OSHA said the most serious violation was against Southern Pan Service for failing to obtain a reshoring drawing that included all revisions made at the site.

"These employers are experienced in this type of construction and know all too well that disaster can occur when engineering drawings are not adhered to, or are modified, as occurred in this tragic collapse, without the approval of a professional engineer," said James Borders, OSHA's area director in Jacksonville.

The companies have 15 days working to pay the fines or challenge the citations.

Work on the 23-story residential tower next door was halted after the collapse.

The owners of the Berkman Plaza II said they were conducting their own investigation. In the statement after the collapse, they said "they have no reason to believe that the residential building has been compromised in any way."

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