News

Building inspector's death under investigation

Man tumbled down elevator shaft during Palo Alto home inspection in December 2011

The death of a building inspector who fell down an elevator shaft in a Palo Alto home in December 2011 is under investigation, the Weekly has learned.

Gary Collins, 43, a resident of San Ramon, was critically injured Dec. 6 after he fell down an elevator shaft at a home under construction near Waverley Street and Lowell Avenue, according to officials of several agencies.

Collins, an employee of 4Leaf, Inc., a Pleasanton construction-management and engineering corporation, was inspecting construction at the home when the accident occurred, City of Palo Alto Chief Building Official Larry Perlin confirmed.

"He tumbled down an elevator shaft and landed on his head. Paramedics responded and took him to Stanford Hospital. He was in a coma for several days and passed away," Perlin said.

The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner's Office said he died Dec. 19, and confirmed Collin's name, city of residence and age.

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Patricia Ortiz, spokeswoman for the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) said that an investigation is ongoing.

Kevin Duggan, president of 4Leaf, Inc., said the contractor was not present at the accident.

Collins fell from the first floor into the shaft, which was in an underground pit, he said.

He said he is saddened by Collins's death.

"My heart goes out to the family. I feel very bad for him," he said. Duggan said that Collins had a wife and two children.

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Building inspector's death under investigation

Man tumbled down elevator shaft during Palo Alto home inspection in December 2011

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Apr 20, 2012, 4:16 pm
Updated: Mon, Apr 23, 2012, 8:37 am

The death of a building inspector who fell down an elevator shaft in a Palo Alto home in December 2011 is under investigation, the Weekly has learned.

Gary Collins, 43, a resident of San Ramon, was critically injured Dec. 6 after he fell down an elevator shaft at a home under construction near Waverley Street and Lowell Avenue, according to officials of several agencies.

Collins, an employee of 4Leaf, Inc., a Pleasanton construction-management and engineering corporation, was inspecting construction at the home when the accident occurred, City of Palo Alto Chief Building Official Larry Perlin confirmed.

"He tumbled down an elevator shaft and landed on his head. Paramedics responded and took him to Stanford Hospital. He was in a coma for several days and passed away," Perlin said.

The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner's Office said he died Dec. 19, and confirmed Collin's name, city of residence and age.

Patricia Ortiz, spokeswoman for the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) said that an investigation is ongoing.

Kevin Duggan, president of 4Leaf, Inc., said the contractor was not present at the accident.

Collins fell from the first floor into the shaft, which was in an underground pit, he said.

He said he is saddened by Collins's death.

"My heart goes out to the family. I feel very bad for him," he said. Duggan said that Collins had a wife and two children.

The company has worked on projects such as the Amtrak light-rail extension in Sacramento, the BART station in West Dublin and the light-rail project for San Francisco MUNI.

Comments

Wondering?
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm
Wondering?, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Was he by himself, or with others?

Did the police make a report at the time?

Why is it taking almost five months to look into this? What makes anyone think this death is more than an accident?


investigations
Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 20, 2012 at 4:58 pm
investigations, Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 20, 2012 at 4:58 pm

OSHA still needs to figure out the exact sequence of events to help prevent tragedies like this from happening again. They may also determine that legally required safety procedures were not properly followed.


Hmmm
East Palo Alto
on Apr 20, 2012 at 5:41 pm
Hmmm, East Palo Alto
on Apr 20, 2012 at 5:41 pm

This sounds like a horrifying accident - & a residential elevator shaft, of all the weird things. I am so truly sorry for Mr. Collins & his loved ones.


lazlo
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 20, 2012 at 5:54 pm
lazlo, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 20, 2012 at 5:54 pm

The print media tabloids in Palo Alto were notified by a concerned citizen of this tragic event involving a contract employee working as a City of Palo Alto Building Inspector shortly after the accident occurred. None of the tabloids chose to report or investigate the story further. What is even more disgusting about this incident is that the City of Palo Alto Information Officer, City Manager, Human Resource Director, Chief Building Official or any city official having information of this tragedy failed to acknowledge, notify the public, or convey publicly their condolences regarding this tragic accident.


Bill Johnson
Registered user
publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Apr 20, 2012 at 6:36 pm
Bill Johnson, publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
Registered user
on Apr 20, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Lazlo,

I can't speak for other local newspapers, but the Weekly learned about this incident for the first time through a posting on Town Square earlier this week and immediately followed up to report on it. This is an example of how an individual with knowledge of a newsworthy event can alert the community and our reporters. This is what we're here to do; we would never ignore a news tip like this.


Wondering?
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2012 at 6:54 pm
Wondering?, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2012 at 6:54 pm

> or any city official having information of this tragedy failed to
> acknowledge, notify the public, or convey publicly their
> condolences regarding this tragic accident.

There is always the possibility that the City is somehow liable for compensation to the company which was his employer, or the City directly. Under those circumstances, it's probably not all the unprecedented for the City to say nothing until the case is settled. Even then, it's quite possible that non-disclosure of the details and the settlement might become effectively "sealed".

It's a shame that the system works this way .. but when money is involved--all sorts of unreasonable things can happen--and the taxpayers pay the bill without getting to know where the money goes, or why.


lazlo
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 20, 2012 at 7:38 pm
lazlo, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 20, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Bill Johnson,

Actually your paper, as well as The Daily, were notified in December by email of this tragic accident. That being said, it is indeed unfortunate that the City of Palo Alto Information Officer, City Manager, Human Resource Director, Chief Building Official, or any other city officials having knowledge or information regarding this incident failed to acknowledge or notify the public or local media of this accident and chose not to convey publicly their condolences regarding this tragic accident. We can only hope that the Palo Alto media will begin to fully investigate and report their findings on this accident and why it went unreported by city officials.


Bill Johnson
Registered user
publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Apr 20, 2012 at 8:00 pm
Bill Johnson, publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
Registered user
on Apr 20, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Lazlo,

Please let me know offline where the e-mail was sent so I can look into what happened to it. You can e-mail directly at [email protected]

Thanks for your help in bringing this story to our (and the community's) attention.


Hide the Weenies-Best dogs in the world
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2012 at 9:11 am
Hide the Weenies-Best dogs in the world, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2012 at 9:11 am

Look man...the man was an inspector. Why would he fall through a shaft?


lazlo
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm
lazlo, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Our sincere and heartfelt condolences go out to Gary Collins wife and two children who have suffered an unfortunate and saddening loss. Gary will be remembered for his commitment and caring in providing Palo Alto with a safer community. Gary Collins will be missed.


[email protected]
Mountain View
on Apr 23, 2012 at 12:14 pm
[email protected], Mountain View
on Apr 23, 2012 at 12:14 pm

When OSHA gets involved, MONEY sometimes gets to be a deciding factor.
The city does not want liability and if the inspector was not using OSHA REQUIRED SAFETY EQUIPMENT ( like a HARD HAT, for example ), the city gets the liability, especially if lawyers get involved ( and we know that Palo Alto doesn't have an excess of lawyers [/sarcasm] ).

This is a tragedy..No sense in adding people who will milk it...

So in many cases, silence is literally golden....


Grumpy Granny
Charleston Gardens
on Apr 23, 2012 at 12:40 pm
Grumpy Granny, Charleston Gardens
on Apr 23, 2012 at 12:40 pm

We have a relative who,while doing construction on a three-story building "up north" slipped on the damp roof and fell to the ground. He was terribly damaged, is in a wheel chair etc. The problem: necessary safety measures that should have been in place, were not taken by the people in charge of the construction. Yes, a tragic accident.


Fed-up
Mountain View
on Apr 23, 2012 at 2:43 pm
Fed-up, Mountain View
on Apr 23, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Kevin Duggan, president of 4Leaf, Inc.,

The paper needs to make clear that this person is or is not the recently retired City Mgr. of Mountain View.


Carlito Waysman
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 23, 2012 at 4:56 pm
Carlito Waysman, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 23, 2012 at 4:56 pm

[email protected] a resident of Mountain View, 4 hours ago said:

When OSHA gets involved, MONEY sometimes gets to be a deciding factor.


The city does not want liability and if the inspector was not using OSHA REQUIRED SAFETY EQUIPMENT ( like a HARD HAT, for example ), the city gets the liability, especially if lawyers get involved ( and we know that Palo Alto doesn't have an excess of lawyers [/sarcasm] ).




Tell me what a hard hat can do to spare your life, landing head first trough an elevator shaft?
Safety measures set into Law that are there to prevent accidents in a construction workplace are routinely not deployed and observed. Who has the burden to make sure that they are followed? The developer.

Specially in the residential construction going on in Palo Alto, with the developers trying to make the most money out of a new home being built, they are willing to look the other way in order to get the job done as fast as possible, and their crew mostly of undocummented workers that willingly or unwillingly play their game. Steel toe boots? Hard hats? respirators or dust masks while dry cutting stone or concrete? PHYSICAL BARRIERS and warning signs around open trenches or elevator shafts? If you want to make a Palo Alto contractor/developer laugh, and tell you a lot of BS go ahead and ask about safety measures and enforcement on their job sites.


dave
Downtown North
on Apr 23, 2012 at 5:00 pm
dave, Downtown North
on Apr 23, 2012 at 5:00 pm

It is not obvious to me why every accident or event needs to be publicized unless we can learn from it and avoid a similar tragedy. I don't think many readers work in the building trade with the possibility of falling down an elevator shaft under construction.

Until OSHA completes its investigation, knowledge of the accident isn't a factor in our lives. Let the family mourn in peace.


Lynne
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 23, 2012 at 5:40 pm
Lynne, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 23, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Yeah this story does not give enough information.


Whiskers
Palo Alto Hills
on May 1, 2012 at 12:30 pm
Whiskers, Palo Alto Hills
on May 1, 2012 at 12:30 pm

As a Building official in a relatively small town in southeast Alabama my condolences go to the family. I have seen it all in the construction trades. I have witnessed many many OSHA violations throughout the years.I or my inspector do not have the authority to enforce safety regulations on a contractor.We can suggest to the contractor that we noticed something but their response normally is nothing will happen, don't worry. That is THEIR RESPONSIBILITY.At the very least the shaft should have had a built up barrier and warning signs that the shaft was not completed. This also falls on the shoulders of the design profesional ie, architect and or engineer if one or both were involved.


RonEl
another community
on May 7, 2012 at 7:43 pm
RonEl, another community
on May 7, 2012 at 7:43 pm

@ Whiskers,
Very unlikely that the Architect or Engineer will be involved at all, they usually are expressly off-limits when it comes to "means and methods" during a construction project; unless things are vastly different in California (which wouldn't be a surprise0.


Pete Bennett
another community
on Dec 5, 2012 at 9:15 pm
Pete Bennett, another community
on Dec 5, 2012 at 9:15 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]




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