By RACHEL COOK, Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
A contactor’s employee died Tuesday after he fell while working at Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s abandoned Kern Power Plant.
Luis Roberto Minjarez, 51, of Los Angeles died after he fell from an elevated lift while working on a tank in the 2400 block of Coffee Road, according the Kern County Sheriff’s Department’s coroner’s office.
At 9:16 a.m. the lift overturned and Minjarez fell. He died less than an hour later at Kern Medical Center, the coroner’s office reported.
Cal-OSHA spokesman Peter Melton said Minjarez was torch cutting beams in a boiler room while he was lifted about 50 feet high in an aerial basket.
“The beam collapsed and knocked over the basket that he was in and so the employee fell,” Melton said.
Minjarez had worked for Covina-based Cleveland Wrecking Co. for 14 years, according to Jim Sheridan, the company’s president. PG&E is contracting with the company to demolish the power plant at the corner of Coffee Road and Rosedale Highway.
“Today is a sad day for the Cleveland Wrecking Company family,” Sheridan said, reading from a statement Tuesday night. Sheridan also offered condolences to the worker’s family.
Speaking from the job site in Bakersfield, Sheridan said the death, to his knowledge, was the first fatal accident for the company. The contractor decided to shut down work at the plant after the incident, Sheridan said. He did not know when work will resume.
“We will go forward with the work on the site, but it’s stopped at the moment,” he said.
Cal-OSHA has opened an investigation into the incident to determine what happened, and how and if it could have been prevented.
“In the report it sounds to me like (the worker) was not wearing a harness, either that or maybe it wasn’t attached,” Melton said.
Sheridan said the company will also follow up with their investigation at the work site.
PG&E spokeswoman Katie Allen said the pause in work will not hinder the project, which the utility expects to be complete next spring.
“As far as the overall project, once the investigation is complete the work will resume. This will have a minimal impact on the overall timeline,” Allen said.
Allen said PG&E also extended sympathy to Minjarez’s family.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the contract employee and his family and it’s just a tragic accident,” she said.
PG&E announced its plans clean up the 120-acre plant site in December. The utility picked Cleveland Wrecking Co. as the contractor for the project in March.
Cleveland Wrecking Co. is a subsidiary of URS Corp., a global engineering, construction and technical services firm based in San Francisco. URS employs about 56,000 people and generated $9.55 billion in revenues in fiscal year 2011, according to the company’s website.