Worker killed, another injured when beam falls at Evanston construction site

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Evanston firefighters work to bring a crane operator down from his post after a fatal construction accident in the 800 block of Emerson Street in Evanston. | Evanston Fire Department

EVANSTON (Sun-Times Media Wire) - One worker was killed and another was critically injured when a steel beam fell at a construction site Tuesday morning in north suburban Evanston.

Crews working on the construction of a nine-story apartment building were using a crane to unload steel beams from a truck about 8:25 a.m. when a beam fell on the two workers at the worksite in the 800 block of Emerson Street in Evanston, according to Evanston police spokesman Perry Polinski.

The beam was about 30 feet in the air when the crane’s rigging failed and the beam dropped onto the two men, ages 55 and 27, according to the Evanston Fire Department.

The 55-year-old was taken to Evanston Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, Polinski said.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office identified him as David Gene Bialas of Compton in north central Illinois. An autopsy found he died of multiple injuries in an industrial accident and his death was ruled an accident.

The other worker, a 27-year-old Woodridge man, had to be extricated from beneath the beam and was also taken to Evanston Hospital, authorities said. He was in critical condition and was undergoing surgery.

Polinski said officials from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration were called to the scene.

OSHA spokeswoman Rhonda Burke said the deceased employee worked for Area Erectors Inc. of Chicago and that OSHA has opened an investigation into the incident.

A spokesman for the company declined to comment on the investigation Tuesday afternoon.

Firefighters helped the crane operator down from his post, which was about 130 feet high, but he was not hurt, Evanston Fire Department Division Chief Paul Polep said. No other injuries were reported.

Police said Emerson would likely remain closed between Sherman and Maple until Wednesday as authorities continued to investigate.