UPDATE: Worker dies in construction accident at UI - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UPDATE: Worker dies in construction accident at University of Iowa

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -- The University of Iowa says a construction worker died Monday morning, while working on a flood mitigation project near the Art Building West. The campus facility was damaged during the record floods of June 2008.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said the worker,  52-year-old Kevin Dean Hammons of Washington, was pronounced dead at the scene. He was employed by a private contractor. 

Rescuers said the worker was killed by a falling beam, which was supporting the walls of a large box he and other workers were operating in. The box was being used as a retaining wall to hold back dirt and water.

As rescue crews arrived on the scene Monday morning, at first they were not sure of Hammons' condition. Their main goal was to reach him and then get him out safely.

That proved difficult, as rescuers quickly prepared hydraulic jacks to stabilize the work site. Rohr said firefighters also built a frame to place beneath the beam, so they could dig beneath it and free the worker. But even with the ground frozen solid, rescuers encountered a setback: dirt there had been moved recently, and appeared to be unstable.

"We're not sure how solid the ground is," Rohr said. "When the accident happened they were backfilling, so we have cribbing and shoring under there, and as we were digging we just didn't know how solid it was."

That prompted rescuers to position an excavator to lift one end of the beam, finally allowing them access to Hammons. Fire trucks and other vehicles were moved to block any view of the accident site as he was lifted out.

This is the second fatal accident at a University of Iowa construction site in the last year. In September 2010, 49-year-old Tom Fosdick of Cedar Rapids died while working on the Boyd Law Building.

UI Director of Public Safety Chuck Green said the previous accident will be considered during their investigation of Monday's accident. He added that despite the tragedy, rescue workers responded quickly and worked efficiently when they arrived on the scene.

"We are very thankful for the fire department, rescue, haz-mat, medical examiners, Iowa City police, as well as our police department at the University of Iowa," Green said.

Online Reporter - Brady Smith

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