Advertisement

Man Rescued From Deep Shaft Dies in Hospital : Construction: Details of the building inspector’s injuries have not been released. He went into cardiac arrest at Valencia site.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A building inspector who was wedged into a 66-foot shaft for nearly four hours at a Valencia construction site earlier this week has died.

Jaime Lozoya, 32, of Downey died at 7:15 p.m. Thursday at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, where he had been in critical condition since the accident two days earlier. Details of his injuries have not been released, at the request of his family, but Lozoya went into cardiac arrest as he was pulled out of the hole by rescuers and had to be revived.

Lozoya, a contract employee with the city of Santa Clarita, fell into a shaft on Tuesday at 23948 Via Onda, where two homes had been demolished following the Northridge earthquake. The openings were to be filled with concrete and steel reinforcements for seismic safety.

In a dramatic scene captured live by the media, rescuers painstakingly lowered themselves into the 2 1/2-foot-wide hole, finally successfully pulling Lozoya out in a harness after he passed out.

Advertisement

On Friday, workers gathered at the construction site to discuss Lozoya’s death. They described the Downey resident as likable and energetic, saying he often spoke of building his own home near the coast south of Los Angeles, according to project manager Ray Miller.

“We all felt terrible,” Miller said.

Although some employees indicated they are uncomfortable working near where Lozoya was injured, none have asked to leave the job site, Miller said. The day of the accident, witnesses said Lozoya had removed the plywood covering from the opening of the pit, but it remains unclear whether he accidentally stepped into the hole or whether the ground surrounding the opening collapsed.

“It wasn’t anybody’s fault,” said Bob Howard, a carpenter who saw Lozoya fall in the hole. “It was just a stupid accident.”

Advertisement

Lozoya was employed by Anaheim-based Willdan and Associates, one of several building-inspection firms the city of Santa Clarita hired to help with thousands of structural reviews necessary after the Northridge earthquake.

This is the only time in Santa Clarita’s seven-year history that a subcontracted employee has been killed on the job, according to Deputy City Manager Jeff Kolin.

“As far as I know, this is the first for a city employee or a contract service provider,” said Kolin.

Construction at the accident site is continuing because Cal/OSHA--which is investigating the accident--does not believe an “imminent hazard” exists to workers, said agency spokesman John Duncan.

Advertisement

Cal/OSHA investigators arrived on the site during the rescue efforts and have been interviewing co-workers and witnesses about the incident, Duncan said, but have yet to reach any conclusions.

“We have an investigation under way,” Duncan said. “It’s probably going to take a little longer, about a week.”

It was members of an Urban Search and Rescue team from Redondo Beach who rescued Lozoya from the shaft, to the applause of co-workers and other onlookers. But it had taken hours, during which time Lozoya had his legs pinned under him and complained of back pains.

One by one, rescuers dangling from a rope had been lowered into the hole to try to slip a harness around Lozoya.

Advertisement

Efforts were made to keep Lozoya alive and comfortable, including pumping oxygen down to him and supplying him with Gatorade. But it was not until he lost consciousness, causing his body to relax, that rescuers were able to lift him from the hole.

An autopsy by the Los Angeles County coroner’s office is expected to be conducted on Lozoya today or Sunday.

Times special correspondent Mark Sabbatini contributed to this story.


Advertisement