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Man trapped when part of UW building collapses

Man trapped when part of UW building collapses

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Associated Press

MADISON - A floor being built in a new University of Wisconsin campus building buckled under the weight of fresh concrete and collapsed, trapping a construction worker for three hours and injuring nine others.

Terry Staskal, of Platteville, was working on the third floor of the new UW-Madison pharmacy building when metal and concrete fell from above, burying him below the waist, fire officials said.

Staskal, 41, was in serious but stable condition with leg and foot injuries Wednesday afternoon, hospital officials said. A metal girder had fallen on his legs, on top of that was a gigantic slab of concrete.

Nine other people were admitted to the University of Wisconsin Hospital with mostly minor injuries. Seven of those had been released Wednesday evening and two were in fair condition with broken bones.

Rescue workers were crammed into a tiny, two-foot high space while they dug Staskal out and tried to stabilize his medical condition.

Madison Fire Lt. Ron Schwenn lay on his stomach for most of three hours trying to get Staskal out. He said the concrete slab was so heavy that neither a crane nor fire department air bags could life it alone.

"We've lifted city buses with these air bags before without much trouble," Schwenn said. He said that "everybody was scared and nervous" about the possibility that emergency supports would not keep more concrete and metal from falling on them.

Doctors briefly considered the possibility of amputating Staskal's legs because of the weight of the construction material and the difficulty of the rescue, said Bruce Potenza, a UW trauma doctor.

Doctors were prepared to operate on the construction site if Staskal needed surgery while he was still trapped, Potenza said.

But three of the victims, including Staskal, were strapped onto boards and lowered from the third floor of the structure using cranes.

Kraemer Bros. Construction of Plain is the general contractor for the $46.9 million construction project. The building is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2000, and company CEO Norm Kraemer said the accident shouldn't delay the completion date.

Kraemer said the accident was apparently caused when part of the forming system, which holds the concrete and supports the building's floors, broke under the weight of concrete that was poured Wednesday morning.

The forming system, which Kraemer Bros. had not used before this project, was supplied by Symons Corp. in Bloomington, Minn.

An official at Symons Corp. did not immediately return a telephone call Wednesday.

Kraemer said workers often watch from below when concrete is being poured to make sure everything is going as planned.

"They just roam around and there normally isn't any danger for those people under there," Kraemer said. He said construction could resume as early as Thursday morning.

Officials at the Madison district office of the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration said investigators were looking into the accident.

Kraemer safety director Paul Bartelson said the company has a "tremendous" safety record and that rescue workers should be commended as "heroes. … Those people put themselves in a great deal of jeopardy," he said.

Schwenn said Staskal was conscious the whole time.

"He was anxious and scared. He was calm, he wasn't losing control," he said. "He held up really well through it all. He was in good spirits when we got him out."

Schwenn said Staskal promised to buy him and other rescue workers a beer when he got out of the hospital.


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