Construction resumes after death at Levi's Stadium

June 13, 2013 7:07:29 PM PDT
On Thursday more than 1,000 workers returned to work at the 49ers' new stadium where an elevator installer was killed Tuesday. It's a tragedy without warning that is hitting his co-workers hard.

Noise is part of the life of a stadium under construction, but silence took over for a brief time at Levi's Stadium as construction workers mourned the loss of one of their own. You may think they're tough, but a death among them can leave a deep wound.

It looked like another day on the job, but it didn't start out that way. They started this day on the end zone field to deal with the death of 63-year-old elevator contractor Donald White. He suffered a head injury when an elevator counterweight struck him in the head. There was a moment of silence and a message from a construction supervisor.

"So today we all come here united to show our respect and our appreciation to all of you, but especially to our fallen man, Donald White. Gone but never forgotten," said construction supervisor Dave Masel.

"Everyone was able to take time to let it process, and it's better now," said Karim Gomez, a construction worker.

Many said they didn't know White because they specialize in different trades, but they are sporting a decal on their hard hats with White's initials. They're all part of one team now and that means watching out for each other's safety. Overcoming the sadness will take time.

We spoke to Dave Rathke and Patrick Scanlan, construction workers that work at the stadium.

Rathke: "It was still a little on the low side, but I think by tomorrow, everything will be picking up."
Louie: "Take it one day at a time."
Rathke: "Right, exactly."

Scanlan: "It's a big job so I never ran into him, but my heart goes out to his family, though."
Louie: "Does it help to get back to the rhythm of work and get back to normalcy?"
Scanlan: "Yes, it does. It definitely does."

Many declined to speak as they wrapped up the day, each absorbed with thoughts about Tuesday's accident. Others had privately participated in a construction trades' ritual of passing the bucket and making a contribution to Donald White's family. One of them was Tim Rickford, who says the construction workers may have learned something about teamwork on Thursday.

Rickford: "It's your way of helping a person you may not know, but you want to help him somehow, some way. The family I'll never know, but I helped them out.
Louie: "It's your way of showing respect."
Rickford: "Correct."

The general contractor, Turner Devcon, is providing grief counseling for anyone seeking it. CAL-OSHA's investigation is still underway and may take months.

The elevator shaft where White was killed is now back in use.

The 49ers have announced that a tree and plaque will be put up in the west plaza of Levi's Stadium in honor of Donald White.


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