Home World Family of surviving ironworker in Hyde Park accident files suit

Family of surviving ironworker in Hyde Park accident files suit

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The family of a man critically injured after falling from scaffolding at the in-progress University of Chicago cancer research center last week has filed a lawsuit against two construction companies, alleging a series of “careless and negligent acts” led to his injuries. 

A pair of ironworkers fell about nine stories to the ground Thursday shortly after 12:15 p.m. during high winds. Jeffrey Spyrka, 36, was taken just a few steps from the site to UChicago Medicine with injuries his attorneys called “catastrophic and serious.” David O’Donnell, 27, died in the fall, leaving his family reeling

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges that general contractor Turner Construction Co. failed to take proper safety measures to ensure that the scaffolding was “safely and properly erected.” It accuses the contractor of putting workers in danger by allowing scaffolding work outside during high winds. 

It also says Adjustable Forms Inc., a concrete contractor, didn’t properly build the scaffolding, leading to corner sections separating in the wind. 

Attorneys representing Spyrka and O’Donnell at GWC Injury Lawyers said in a news release that O’Donnell was the last worker to access the scaffold. He talked with Spyrka and another ironworker near the southwest corner, and a few minutes later, a gust of wind caused the corner to separate. A scaffold section then “swung violently away from the wall,” throwing the two workers to the ground. 

A lawsuit on behalf of O’Donnell is expected to be filed later this week, according to the release. 

“Neither of these families should have to go through this. These workers should have never been working on what turned out to be an unsafe, dangerous scaffold perched over 100 feet in the air,” attorney Louis Cairo said in the statement. 

“This was an absolutely callous acts of negligence and misconduct by major construction companies who viewed progress on the job as their priority rather than the safety of the workers on the job,” Cairo continued. “The evidence will prove that this was a totally preventable catastrophe.” 

Cairo said it’s a miracle Spyrka survived the fall but that he has a long recovery ahead. Spyrka has been married to his wife, Ashley, for eight years, and they have three children under 6 years old, the release said. 

“Ashley has not left the hospital since her loving husband’s tragic fall,” Cairo said. “Her and her young children’s futures are certainly going to be difficult, but Ashley’s focus is to ultimately bring Jeff home in whatever condition God has planned for him, where she and their children will love him and take care of him as long as possible.”

Friends of Spyrka created a GoFundMe Monday to help pay for medical bills and other expenses. The page, which calls Spyrka “tough and resilient” as well as a devoted husband and father, has raised nearly $30,000 as of Tuesday afternoon.

O’Donnell is survived by his parents and three brothers. One of his brothers described him as “wicked smart” and “immensely funny,” saying he enjoyed golf, camping, the White Sox and the Chicago skyline. He was trained as a technical engineer. 

A representative for Turner Construction said they are aware of the filing and will “continue to support investigations into this incident.” The company said last week that it halted work at the Hyde Park site and planned to offer employees grief counseling. 

Eric Lindquist, president of Adjustable Concrete, said in a statement that the company is aware of the filing and “deeply saddened to learn of this accident.” He said they’re partnering with Turner Construction to “support a full investigation into this matter.” 

“We offer our sincerest condolences to the loved ones of those affected,” Lindquist said. “Safety is integral to what we do.” 

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an investigation into New Horizon Steel, where Spyrka was employed, last Thursday. The administration is also probing Turner Construction, Adjustable Concrete Construction and O’Donnell’s employer High-Tech Stake-Out Inc. The investigations will take up to six months.



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