One worker was killed and another critically injured June 6 after they fell from scaffolding at a cancer center under construction at the University of Chicago Medical Center in the city's Hyde Park neighborhood, emergency officials said. Separately, the death of of a union ironworker June 1 after a jobsite forklift rollover accident on May 30 at a Portland, Ore., high school construction site was confirmed by an online obituary and a spokeswoman for the ironworkers’ international union. 

Larry Langford, director of media affairs for the Chicago Fire Dept., which responded to the accident at the university's $815-million Comprehensive Cancer Center Building project, identified David O’Donnell, 27, of Oak Forest, Ill., as the worker who died at the scene. The other worker, not identified, was critically injured and is being treated at the medical center. Work on the project began last September.

“The accident occurred when wind caused scaffolding to blow away from the building. They [the workers] appeared not to be tethered,” said Langford, adding that winds were clocked at 55 mph at Midway Airport around the time of the noontime accident. The men were working on the exterior of an elevator shaft on the eighth floor when they fell into a below-ground pit that will become the building’s basement.

Rhonda Burke, U.S. Labor Dept. deputy director of public affairs, said on June 7 that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened investigations into Turner Construction, the general contractor; High-Tech State-Out Inc. (HTSO), employer of O'Donnell; New Horizon Steel of Chicago, employer of the injured worker; and Adjustable Concrete Construction, the scaffolding erector, located in Lombard, Ill. 

The firms did not comment on the investigation.

HTSO is a union Local 130 engineering firm specializing in construction layout and engineering problem solving, according to O'Donnell's Linkedin page, which also identified him as company president.It could not be confirmed if New Horizon Steel is a union subcontractor.

Turner Construction has halted work, spokesman Chris McFadden said in a statement. “This is an extremely sad day,” he said. “We work extremely hard to prevent days like this and we have halted all construction activity. Grief counseling services will be available to all workers on site to support them."

Tarrah Cooper Wright, CEO of New Horizon Steel, said in a statement that the firm is "thankful that the New Horizon Steel employee who was injured is reportedly stable and expected to make a full recovery," adding that it is "currently investigating the cause of the incident ... [and] also fully supporting all authorities in their investigations."

Death of Woman Ironworker

Samantha “Sam” Ruvolo Deschenes, 33, who was killed in the Portland accident, was a fourth-year ironworker apprentice in Local 29 in that city and mother of a nine-year-old son.

Deschenes "loved to weld and get dirty,” said the obituary. “She loved her job, working with all of her brothers and sisters in the union, truly loved life and lived it to the fullest." Added Vicki O’Leary, Ironworkers international union general organizer and director of diversity: “It’s a huge loss to the ironworker community."

Deschenes was trapped under a forklift at the Benson Polytechnic High School construction site, Portland Fire & Rescue officials told the Portland Tribune and CBS affiliate KOIN. She "arrived at the hospital alive, [but] suffered a medical event there related to the accident and did not survive," the officials said. Oregon's occupational safety and health agency now is probing the accident cause, a spokesperson told media.

"Due to ongoing investigations and out of respect for the families, our association will not be making any further statements,” Courtney Attig, ironworkers' international spokeswoman, told ENR.

Project contractor Andersen Construction described Deschenes as a “valued team member,” said one report, adding that work has been suspended as the investigation proceeds. 

A union sponsored fund has been set up to assist the Deschenes family, the ironworkers' union said in an online post.