Monday, April 26, 2004

Atlantic City Garage Collapse, Continued

Remembering the Injured

Sometimes we focus exclusively on workplace fatalities and forget about those who suffer serious injuries that may affect them for the rest of their lives:
There was a point, as he lay in the rubble, his body numb, his screams for help muffled by a mouthful of blood and concrete, that Hassan Ali accepted that this was the way he was going to die.

After falling five stories, his leg was shattered, his jaw crushed so badly that a doctor would later compare it to running a hand over a crumpled bag of potato chips. A slab of concrete hung precariously over him, threatening to finish the job.

In the end, four construction workers died in the collapse of the Tropicana Casino & Resort parking garage Oct. 30. Ali, a 43-year-old concrete worker, survived.

But six months later, living is still a struggle for a man who once prided himself on his physical strength and who now doesn't know whether he will be able to walk unaided again. He thanks God that he is alive, but sometimes the depression is overwhelming. The physical pain is almost constant, the anger still strong.
Officials from one of the companies involved, the Philadelphia-based Keating Building Corp., said in a statement:
"We have committed every possible resource to ensure that we deliver the safest, highest-quality work possible every day at dozens of sites... . We remain committed to exceeding the industry's highest standards on a daily basis."
A New York Times story that I wrote about yesterday blamed the collapse on “faulty installation of concrete floors after changes were made to the design to speed the job and save money.”

OSHA’s report is due out soon.
Victims and their families hope that when the silence is finally broken, someone will be held accountable for their suffering.

"It won't make me better, but it will make me feel better if they step up to the plate and say, 'We were wrong and we accept responsibility for that,' " Ali said.

In Ali's case, it would mean accepting responsibility for an accident that resulted in his having nine surgeries. A dozen metal pins still pierce through the skin of his lower right leg, keeping the bones inside in line.

His jaw is no longer wired shut, but he still can't eat solid food and carries a napkin to wipe away the drool that dribbles stubbornly out of the corners of his mouth.
Life for the once-energetic father of two sons, 12 and 21, now revolves around medications, trips to the doctor, making small steps in a long and arduous healing process. His family's life revolves around helping him.

"Whoever was responsible for building that building, I blame them," Ali said from his townhouse, where his sister and fiancee work in shifts tending to him. "Something went wrong somewhere and they let it happen."

Ali wants someone to answer for that.