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Jan 5, 2009 4:04 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Construction worker killed in job site accident in Southampton Village

Jan 5, 2009 4:04 PM

A construction worker died in Southampton Village on Monday afternoon when a foundation wall at a work site collapsed, pinning him underneath—and a Southampton Village official said the accident may have been the result of shoddy workmanship and attempts to cut corners on the project.

Facundo Gonzalez, 33, of Farmingville was trapped beneath the fallen concrete wall shortly before 3 p.m. while he was working at a construction site at the southeast corner of North Sea Road and Willow Street. Emergency personnel from Southampton Fire Department, Southampton Village Volunteer Ambulance and the Village Police attempted to resuscitate him after pulling him free.

Mr. Gonzalez was then taken by ambulance to Southampton Hospital to meet a Medevac helicopter that would have transported him to Stony Brook University Medical Center. But the helicopter was called off when he could not be revived and was pronounced dead on the way.

According to Village Police, emergency dispatchers received a 911 call at 2:58 p.m. from another construction worker, who reported that a concrete wall had collapsed, and Mr. Gonzalez was trapped beneath it.

Jon Foster, senior building inspector for Southampton Village, said that the victim had been digging under the wall before the collapse to install footings, structural supports that should have been in place before the concrete wall was poured and the forms were removed.

“They didn’t do the job right,” Mr. Foster said. The concrete wall also should have been reinforced with steel, but it was not reinforced at all, he added. “As they dug the hole, the concrete snapped.”

The wall, which was built on sand, was about 19 feet long and 8 feet high and weighed an estimated 7 tons, Mr. Foster said. “With 14,000 pounds coming down on him, he didn’t stand a chance, which is tragic.”

Mr. Foster said the architectural plan for the foundation had also been altered. Where there should have been a window well for emergency escape access from the basement, a stairwell was being installed instead. “The stairway wasn’t put in yet, but the wall was,” he said.

Rescuers dug beneath the concrete wall, and after 10 minutes they were able to extricate Mr. Gonzalez, police said. At that time, they began CPR and defibrillated Mr. Gonzalez’s heart, Detective Sergeant Herman Lamison said Tuesday.

With an automated external defibrillator still attached to his chest and a brace securing his neck, firefighters and police officers—uniforms dirtied with mud—carried Mr. Gonzalez on a stretcher out of the excavated area to an ambulance.

Mr. Gonzalez was shortly thereafter pronounced dead upon arrival at Southampton Hospital.

Village Police Chief William Wilson said that, though the death was apparently an accident, it was reported to the Suffolk County Homicide Squad. The Village Police routinely notify county homicide detectives whenever there is a death by unnatural causes, he explained. Det. Sgt. Lamison said Wednesday morning that the body is at the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office, and that the official cause of death will be reported in the coming days.

A sign for Bérube & Son Construction, along with an August 12, 2008, building permit issued to Valerie Revere, who is the property owner, according to town records, were posted at the end of the driveway. Calls to Bérube & Son were not immediately returned.

Det. Sgt. Lamison said Mr. Gonzalez did not work for Bérube & Son, but rather for a concrete company, Saldana’s Concrete Corporation. He said Mr. Gonzalez was working for the concrete company for at least a couple weeks before the accident. Police believe Mr. Gonzalez was from Mexico, but his immigration status is unknown, the detective sergeant said.

Chief Wilson noted that the construction site is being investigated by the village Building Department and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency charged with enforcing safety and health legislation.

On Tuesday morning, the perimeter of the construction site had been sealed off with police tape, and a stop-work order was posted. Signed by Village Building Inspector Christopher Talbot, the stop work order indicated two violations at the site: “You have failed to comply with the provisions of the New York State building code,” and “A dangerous and unsafe condition exists.”

Behind the police tape, Village Police detectives and OSHA investigators inspected the site.

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I wish that the reporter would find out the immigration status of Mr. Gonzalez. I have a feeling he is an illegal alien, or for those who are squeamish about such characterizations, and undocumented alien. However regretful as his death is and the anguish of his loved ones, his death will probably be written off because of his status.
Illegal aliens are the new American slaves and the system is kept alive and well by unscrupulous contractors, homeowners and community activists because ...more
By tom (53), Hampton Bays on Jan 6, 09 6:20 PM
So Tom I guess you're saying that slaves chose to come here?
By Agawam Yacht Club (69), Southampton on Jan 6, 09 6:32 PM
Tom - What makes you think that he is a slave? I work for a company as well, does that make me a slave?
So lets worry about his illegal alien or if he is a slave or not. Let's not worry about if he left a wife behind or how many kids he had. Let's not give a crap about that and lets start talking about illegal activity.
By E (11), Southampton on Jan 6, 09 9:35 PM
How ignorant, Tom you assume that because he is hispanic, he must be undocumented. Not every person of hispanic decent is undocumented and underpaid. Its a shame that you would use this mans death to push your own agenda. Its people like you that made those kids in Patchouge think it was ok to go around beating up people who "looked" hispanic. Be careful Tom. Your white hood is showing...
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on Jan 7, 09 7:40 AM
faceless - what makes you think he is illegal. I am Spanish, born here with 2 parents that were born here both served this country in the force and works for the government. I have worked in construction for 5 years does that make me and illegal because I'm Spanish and used to work in construction. What makes you think that his wife is Spanish, she probably is white or perhaps married an American Indian like you. Why judge because of looks? Why can't you think that perhaps he migrated here legally ...more
By E (11), Southampton on Jan 7, 09 9:30 AM
It's unclear to me why the decedent's immigration status is at issue at this point.

If there is a suggestion that safety precautions at the site were sub-standard because of the contractor's hiring practices, that has yet to be established.

The loss of a life diminishes us -- finger-pointing later.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jan 7, 09 9:39 AM
I agree that we shouldn't assume his immigration status, but, perhaps, a larger issue is, are immigrant (legal or not) workers expected to do more and work harder for less money than native-born American workers?

Are workers seen as "expendable" not given the same safety precautions?
By Mr Suffolk (113), Twin Forks on Jan 7, 09 12:37 PM
I do not care what color or religion this man was, or whether he was here legally or not. The ONLY important issues here are: someone died...why & who is responsible?
My great grandparents came to this country ages ago & I thank God no one was around back then holding up signs or telling them to go back home. I do not blame folks for trying to make money to send back to their families who are still stuck in countries so poor they are living in huts without running water. I believe all the ...more
By Ms. Jane Q. Public (147), Southampton on Jan 7, 09 2:22 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By no amnesty (2), center moriches on Jan 7, 09 2:23 PM
By no amnesty (2), center moriches on Jan 7, 09 2:29 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By no amnesty (2), center moriches on Jan 7, 09 2:31 PM
Ms. Jane,
The reason your Guatemalan gentlemen could afford to charge you so much less than "Mr. I'm-Here-Legally-So-Pay-Me-100-Times-More-Than-What-I-Am-Worth-So-I-Can-Buy-A-Big-Fat-SUV-Mobile-Home-100" TV-&-Beer" is because they have little or no overhead... They likely share a home with a few relatives and only have to pay $400 or $500 month in rent. Whereas "Mr. I'm-Here-Legally-So-Pay-Me-100-Times-More-Than-What-I-Am-Worth-So-I-Can-Buy-A-Big-Fat-SUV-Mobile-Home-100" TV-&-Beer" most likely ...more
By Mrs. HB (4), Hampton Bays on Jan 7, 09 3:44 PM
I don't care if you against illegal Russian or Spanish. But why assume that he is illegal, why assume that he was not born here like me or became a citizen and have the right to work? What if he pays his taxes just like we all do and does what is legal in this country. My grandparent were immigrants but they paid their taxes and became successful in this country. You jumped right into the conclusion that stuff happens when you hire illegals. What if it was me working on that site and was killed. ...more
By E (11), Southampton on Jan 7, 09 5:28 PM
As a emergency volunteer who was at this scene trying to help this man, It is very hard to work with a reporter/photograper standing right in the middle of things. When we were showing up on scene, he was in the middle of the driveway right where we had to walk through and while we were helping the patient, he was practically in the foundation on top of us. He was asked numerous times by many people to back up and go on the road. He remained in the middle of things snapping photos until many more ...more
By SHLocal (3), Southampton on Jan 7, 09 6:50 PM
Dear Mrs. HB,
For your information, my workers own their own homes with mortgages and taxes, but have no children. More useless info: they recylce, speak perfect English, grow their own vegetables, and live simply, so they can help others. How quickly we jump to conculsions when it comes to other nationalities. I suppose if I told you I was Irish, you would call me a drunk? My grandmother taught me to treat ALL human beings the same, with respect, and to help those less fortunate. I do ...more
By Ms. Jane Q. Public (147), Southampton on Jan 8, 09 10:01 AM
Im still trying to understand how it is that so many of you come to the assumption that this man is illeagal and underpaid...not valuled by te company that employs him. Some one please explain this to me. If the mans last name had been Johnson...would there be any comments at all?
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on Jan 8, 09 10:39 AM
The issue to address with illegal immigration is whether society can afford to treat non-citizens the same as citizens.

I do not believe that illegals are inherently evil law breakers. Rather, they want to work and provide for their families, get their children an education. All noble causes, that in a perfect world would not be denied to anyone.

But, economically, for every illegal present, that takes away from legal citizens. For every illegal willing to work cheap, that ...more
By CommonSense (71), Southampton on Jan 8, 09 11:40 AM
Well said CommonSense.
By Mrs. HB (4), Hampton Bays on Jan 8, 09 11:55 AM
Commonsense...yes...well said. However, it is necessary to include the fact that these folks are coming here to make money. Let us not forget the Americans who are hiring these folks. It is those who hire them who are making the real money, and we all get to fund the services. I believe that these restaurants, hotels, and construction companies who are benefiting off of this population should be held more accountable. If an undocumented day worker hurts himself the construction company drops him ...more
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Jan 8, 09 12:16 PM
Some poor working guy dies under tons of cement and debris, probably because standard construction practices were not followed, and all that some of you people can do is spout ignorance and hate by debating his citizenship status, which is apparently still unknown. The greedy, ignorant, hideous, and selfish behaviour here is appalling.

Put yourselves in a different pair of shoes: There's a dead body sitting somewhere in a local morgue, and a family is making funeral arrangements for a guy ...more
By Undertow (64), Southampton on Jan 8, 09 1:48 PM
Undertow...you are right...and I do feel for the the family. Your point about construction standards is however in the same vein as what I posted earlier. Business owners need to take more resposibility for their type of labor.
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Jan 8, 09 2:16 PM
Well said undertow. I just want people to realize that right now we should be concern about his family, and keep them in prayers.
By E (11), Southampton on Jan 8, 09 5:05 PM
I hope this incident will be a much needed wake-up call, like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City (1911), that will focus attention on unlawful practices that benefit exploitative business owners willing to "cut corners" by endangering workers. Such practices thrive in an atmosphere of do-little governmental regulation and oversight. I note the building permit was issued to the property owner. Was this one of the all too common instances where the property owner obtains a Building ...more
By davbud (127), east hampton on Jan 8, 09 10:13 PM
A man is dead because the contractor circumvented the law by failing to provide for his safety as required by OSHA regulation and the property owner by knowingly altering the buildings design in order to incorporate a stairway instead of a window.The issue is not immigration! It is a lack of worker safety and enforcement of the existing laws and codes.Unfortunately it is common on the East End to see workers without Personal Protective Equipment(safety glasses,harnesses,earplugs etc) Someone needs ...more
By Michael B (5), Hampton Bays on Jan 9, 09 6:57 AM
The contractor the dead person was working for should be held liable. Whoever heard of putting up a wall with no footing ?
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Jan 9, 09 11:33 AM
I guess one thing that we can say is that this poor man is legally dead It is disturbing to see so much prejudice and racism still existing on the east end by some of the aforementioned comments.
By harbor man (47), sag harbor on Jan 9, 09 11:43 PM
... "illegal immigration" would not be an issue if the workers were on the books and not being paid cash. I bet the guy waving the flag at 7-11 is being paid cash, too.
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Jan 10, 09 9:16 AM
And it is those who are paying the day laborers who must be held accountable. Those contractors (general and sub) are making more money off of the situation than those (day laborers) who are standing out on the streets. I would like all of you who are "against illegals" to also realize that our businesses are a huge part of the situation.How did they pour a wall with no footing or re-bar...OMG!
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Jan 10, 09 9:20 AM
I too am against illegal immigration but I am not against the illegal immigrants
By harbor man (47), sag harbor on Jan 10, 09 1:09 PM
Well put Harbor Man.
By Agawam Yacht Club (69), Southampton on Jan 11, 09 4:44 PM
Dear No Amnesty,

Your hatred and ignorance are simply overwhelming. Your username is a clear enough indication of where you stand and your all-capital-letter posting serves as further evidence of an extreme and misplaced loathing. Your gut response to the news of the death of a fellow human being is to use his tragedy as a platform for your anger. Pathetic.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Jan 12, 09 10:30 AM
In response to SHLocal:

Following your posting, I spoke with Brendan O'Reilly, the reporter/photographer at the scene, and confirmed with him that he followed every order he was given by emergency personnel at the scene and absolutely did NOT interfere with any rescue efforts. I would expect nothing else from my reporters.

That said, with respect, I'd like to point out that working journalists have every right to be at the scene to document news as it happens. Courts have regularly ...more
By Joseph Shaw, Executive Editor (206), Hampton Bays on Jan 12, 09 12:42 PM
Again I say. If his sir name were more Anglo....would this debate be happening? The man is dead...and all people want to do is debate his status...I always wonder what jobs they are taking...because if legal citizens were lining up for these jobs...there would be no need for immigrant labor. Much like the migrant workers of our past..remember them? They worked in the fields picking crops for east end farmers...for very little money and they were citizens...(black citizens) no one complained about ...more
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on Jan 12, 09 3:06 PM
This is in response to William Rodney.I am the man you think gets paid to hold
the flag in southampton (I can assure you I dont).I did not plan to protest so
long but the way I was treated by the village police,JUSTICE Barbara L Wilson,
my fellow contractors and the illegal aliens who overcrowd that small intersection to steal american jobs,insulted me to the highest level.I would like you to know i've had guns and knives pulled on me,i've had many things throne
at me,i've had people ...more
By no amnesty (2), center moriches on Jan 12, 09 3:34 PM
Hey No amnesty: I would love to know if this guys last name was jones, would you still talk about illegal immigrants? I don't care if you would like to debate about illegal immigrants, I respect that. But why him if we are not sure if he is illegal or not. My wife has my last night but she is white, would you talk bad about her since she has a Spanish last name? Well anyhow I don't think this is the time to talk about it especially when he is dead. He probably has older kids that are citizen as ...more
By E (11), Southampton on Jan 12, 09 5:38 PM
No amnesty - you reinforced my point. The contractors put you out of business - not the workers. Cash payroll for day labor creates a market for these "illegals". If these contractors paid on the books wages to the people the playing field would be level.

It is the promise of cash that made them "jump the fence".Hold employers responsible for hiring documented workers and create a system where the validity of the paperwork they present to employers can be verified quickly.

By William Rodney (561), southampton on Jan 12, 09 7:24 PM
Most people jump the fence to try and achieve the American dream. There needs to be a path to become legal. Yes our government is fault for not addressing the problem. Yes it does provide cheap labor for many contractors and industries, Yes we need reform But what we don't need is the prejudice and that racism that exists. These are people whether they are black brown white yellow or green for that matter and what most of us are trying to say here is that they deserve respect. Let's remember ...more
By harbor man (47), sag harbor on Jan 12, 09 7:59 PM

Listen, "No Amnesty", by waving that flag out in front of the 7-11, you're really swatting at the symptoms, rather then actively making an effort to cure the problem. To wit:

1) The USA is the land where "the streets are paved with gold" (it may not seem like it lately, but trust me, compared to the rest of the world, it is...). and, immediately to our south lies Mexico, where drug cartels rule the day, the poverty level is appallingly high, the imbalance of wealth is worse ...more
By Undertow (64), Southampton on Jan 12, 09 8:09 PM
3) It is financially, feasibly, and maybe even legally (court systems are overwhelmed with these cases, at the detriment to murder, drug, gang, organized crime, etc. cases) IMPOSSIBLE to deport the millions of illegal immigrants back to their country of origin. How you gonna do that when we can't even properly rescue New Orleans from a hurricane or even find Osama (probably) Bin Dead (for some time now)?

Here's some advice... take that energy and actively campaign for your political candidate ...more
By Undertow (64), Southampton on Jan 12, 09 8:14 PM
That should be spelled "spread" against the NY Jets.

Watching the follow up to this story very closely.
Best respect, dignity, and prayers to his family.
By Undertow (64), Southampton on Jan 12, 09 8:18 PM
Well said undertow!
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Jan 12, 09 9:50 PM

I am sure that if the photographer knew that he was in the way, he would not be there. However, when you are asked to move out of the way numerous times, by numerous firefighters and EMTs, one would think that he would have gotten the hint that his presence alone was a distraction to the rescue effort.
By 290 (8), Southampton on Jan 12, 09 11:45 PM
I agree with 290. I am not bashing the press or the reporter/photographer but it was a bit distracting and annoying having him so close. There are no hard feelings but I would hope that in the future, the recue workers could have a little space to work. I understand that he was trying to make a story but it could have been made without being so up close.
By SHLocal (3), Southampton on Jan 12, 09 11:54 PM
290 and SHLocal--

Understood. Respectfully, I'd say we're there to do a job, just as you are. One reason it's so important to be close is to capture the drama of the scene--in part to let people know the amazing work emergency workers do, as those photos from the scene very effectively portray, I think. But we shouldn't be in the way, no question. As I said, I think it's time for some conversations between the newspaper and the fire, police and ambulance companies to work out some of these ...more
By Joseph Shaw, Executive Editor (206), Hampton Bays on Jan 13, 09 12:11 PM
Respectfully, I think that we all know how those conversations will go...
By 290 (8), Southampton on Jan 13, 09 1:02 PM
Who is responsible for watching these sites to make sure they are following the plans and local building codes?? Something certainly went wrong here!! The sites should be made safe for all--irregardless of any other factors.
By evergreen (19), Southampton on Jan 13, 09 10:39 PM