Work resumes at Hyde, but not Echo Brickell, as investigations into fatal accidents continue

Lawyer says OSHA investigation could prompt fines or even criminal liability

Oct.October 27, 2016 06:40 PM

After a pair of accidents that have catapulted South Florida’s year-to-date tally of construction-related deaths to surpass all of 2015, work has resumed at one of the job sites.

Construction workers have returned to the Hyde Resort and Residences Hollywood, following a scaffolding collapse Monday that left a local mural painter dead and two others injured.

Yet at Property Markets Group’s Echo Brickell project in Miami, work remains suspended eight days after another scaffolding collapsed on one of the 57-story tower’s uppermost floors caused building materials to rain down on the street below. Five people were injured, and another bystander suffered a heart attack and died.

John Moriarty & Associates, the general contractor for both luxury high-rise projects, confirmed through a spokesperson Thursday that investigators have given it a green light to return to the Hyde Hollywood site.

Some construction workers were back at the 41-story tower as early as Wednesday, though Moriarty has not yet allowed all of the subcontractors to resume working on the project.

As for Echo Brickell, Moriarty said in the statement that it expects construction to pick back up on Monday.

Data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration shows the number of construction-related deaths this year has reached eight including the two most recent accidents. That compares six who were killed in 2015.

The most recent accidents happened within days of each other.

Workers were unloading formation materials on the top floors of Echo Brickell on the afternoon of Oct. 19 when an overhanging platform gave way, crushing a car below and sending four people to the hospital, one of whom was the man who suffered a heart attack and died. He was later identified as 53-year-old Spanish banking executive Salvador Garçon.

Then, on Monday, a trio of artists including prominent Miami painter Douglas Hoekzama were working on a massive mural 40 feet in the air at Hyde when a suspended platform fell out from under them. Hoekzama and his assistant Jonathan Olson were saved by a safety harness, but Raymond Brown was killed after falling to the ground.

It’s still unclear whether the accidents will affect each project’s timeline. Hyde, a beachfront tower with 40 condos and 367 hotel rooms developed by the Related Group, Fortune International Group and SBE, was slated to open at the beginning of 2017.

Work was also expected to wrap up at Property Markets Group’s 180-unit Echo Brickell building during the first half of next year.

OSHA began investigating the cause of each incident soon after they occurred. A spokesperson for OSHA declined comment, stating the agency doesn’t comment on investigations until they’re completed.

“We have not reached any conclusions as there are still many facets we are investigating,” John Leete, head of Moriarty’s South Florida operations, said in a statement. “To that end, both activities – specifically the shear wall formwork at ECHO Brickell and the mural painting at HYDE Resort – will remain suspended until a consensus is reached and we have implemented whatever recommendations and/or corrective actions emerge from the investigation.”

Michael Kurzman, a construction lawyer with Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman, told The Real Deal that OSHA will be taking a close look at the subcontractor responsible for the scaffolding as well as Moriarty.

Typically, he said, the agency finds a safety violation that prompts a fine or opens the responsible party to civil litigation. If the violation is especially egregious, there could also be criminal liability.

“Usually somebody is at fault for something like this,” he said. “If everything is done right, nothing would have happened.”

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