Aspen Fatal, as paged

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Dec 11, 2002
A worker was killed this morning at the old Aspen Middle School while working with an asbestos removal crew. Juan Ruiz, 29, was crushed by a cinder-block wall as it toppled on the third floor of the building.

He was working with a Denver-based team of five men, which also included one of his brothers.

Responding emergency workers performed CPR on him and transported him to Aspen Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead around noon.

“We’re talking to his family and trying to figure out what happened,” said Kory Mitchell from the asbestos removal company, ESA, Inc. “It’s a tragic and awful thing.”

Representatives from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are investigating the accident’s cause. Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office patrol director Jeff Lumsden said that several interviews and an initial investigation of the scene indicated that no criminal activity had taken place. He said they don’t expect to file any charges.

“It’s just a really sad situation when this kind of accident occurs,” said Aspen school superintendent Diana Sirko. “At this point we’re waiting on the reports about how it happened.”

The middle school was built in 1971 and open until last year, when it was replaced by the new facility adjacent to it. As the school district prepared to demolish it, they learned a cancer-causing substance was present in the walls that is legally required to be removed before demolition.

The school district contracted out ESA in January, and work on the building was nearing completion.
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