Workman at Griffin Home Site Killed

Times Staff Writer

The driver of an earthmover was crushed to death Tuesday while working on the grading for entertainer Merv Griffin’s new hilltop home above Beverly Hills when the vehicle tipped over and rolled about 400 feet into a canyon below, authorities said.

Juan Chavez, 21, of Los Angeles was pronounced dead shortly after he was airlifted from the accident scene to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, officials said.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. March 24, 1988 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday March 24, 1988 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 6 Metro Desk 2 inches; 40 words Type of Material: Correction
In Wednesday’s editions, The Times misidentified the operator of an earthmover who was killed while grading land for entertainer Merv Griffin’s new home on a hilltop above Beverly Hills. The victim was Juan Galaz, not Juan Chavez as officials at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center reported.

Witnesses said the accident occurred at 9:25 a.m. at a construction site above the 9800 block of San Circle when the earthmover went over the side of the hill and rolled sideways and end over end at least six times before coming to rest several hundred feet from a home on San Circle.

Chavez was apparently crushed as the earthmover rolled downhill, authorities said.

Grading has been in progress since late last year to make way for the entertainer’s new home on the 157-acre hilltop site, said Kimberly Wells, a spokeswoman for Griffin.


The talk show host-turned-TV producer had purchased the site last October and estimated that 2 million cubic yards of dirt needed to be moved to make way for the home, which would feature a 360-degree view of the surrounding area. The asking price for the land was $6.5 million. The home is expected to be completed within two years.

The spokeswoman said Griffin was “very upset” over the accident.

Several hours later, in an unrelated incident, the Los Angeles Fire Department helicopter that took Chavez to Cedars-Sinai was forced to make an emergency landing in hilly terrain on Mulholland Drive above Studio City, officials said.

No one was injured and officials were investigating the cause of the forced landing.

Times staff writer George R. Fry contributed this story.