MILWAUKEE — Anthony Azarian of Azarian Wrecking was killed in a demolition accident in Milwaukee on Monday afternoon when he and the skid steer he was operating fell down a seven-story elevator shaft.

The tragedy was an eerie reminder of the 2000 construction fatality that occurred when Azarian’s uncle, also an Anthony, died at the bottom of a 10-foot trench in Caledonia when it partially collapsed in on him.

Anthony D’Alie, a good friend of the family and in particular of Anthony Azarian’s father, Sam Azarian, said Anthony, 32, of Caledonia, had been operating a skid steer inside a building at 37th Street and Wisconsin Avenue where the company had been doing demolition for about a month. He was using the skid steer to pull on a wall when the wall gave way, and Azarian went down the elevator shaft from the top story with the skid steer and the wall.

D’Alie said Azarian, his godson, was killed instantly. The emergency call came in at 1:43 p.m.

Azarian’s death was made even more tragic by the fact that he had just had a son two days earlier with his fiancée.

While coping with the latest tragedy, on Tuesday the family made funeral plans.

Azarian Wrecking is a longtime and well-known Racine business owned by Sam Azarian. More often than not, if demolition was being done in the Racine area, Azarian had the job. In recent years those projects included the razing of the former Westgate Cinema, the Park 6 building on Sixth Street and some early work at the would-be Machinery Row site.

D’Alie said he’s been friends with Sam Azarian for about 50 years. The younger Anthony lived with D’Alie during his senior year while attending Waterford High School so he could wrestle on the same team as D’Alie’s son — yet another Anthony. He wrestled for Park High School before transferring to Waterford for the 2004-05 school year.

Anthony Azarian placed second at the WIAA State Individual Wrestling Tournament in 2004 and 2005. A fierce competitor, he was so dejected at being a runner-up in Madison two years in a row that in 2005, he had to be persuaded to take part in the medal ceremony and tossed his second-place medal to a Waterford High School assistant coach immediately afterward.

“Second place again,” he said when interviewed that day by Alan Nunn of The Journal Times. “I … hate it. I hate it. I hate second. I said it last year. I hate it. I don’t want nothing to do with it … no one knows what it feels like to lose (the final) two years in a row.”

Echo of the past

Monday was the second time the Azarian family had experienced tragedy at a work site. In 2000, Sam’s brother Anthony Azarian, then 40, also known as Tony, had gone to a site at Five Mile Road and Highway 32 to cap off a sewer lateral, according to Caledonia police. Reports said he called his secretary to tell her one side of the hole had collapsed.

A few minutes later, Azarian called someone from the sanitary district to come and inspect the capped sewer line.

When the sanitary district employee got to the site shortly after 4 p.m., he found Azarian’s truck running, but couldn’t find him.

Tony’s body was eventually dug out by rescue personnel at the bottom of the 10-foot-deep trench with 5 feet of soil on top of him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

D’Alie said Tony was a neighbor and “as good a friend as I am with Sam.”

Visitation, funeral

A visitation for Anthony Azarian is scheduled from 3-7 p.m. Sunday, with a remembrance service, at Racine Bible Church, 12505 Spring St., Mount Pleasant.

A second visitation is scheduled from 9:30-11:15 a.m. Monday, with a memorial Mass at 11:30 a.m. at St. John Nepomuk Catholic Church, 1903 Green St., Racine.

Arrangements are being handled by Maresh-Meredith and Acklam Funeral Home in Racine.

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Michael "Mick" Burke covers business and the Village of Sturtevant. He is the proud father of two daughters and owner of a fantastic, although rug-chewing, German shepherd dog.