By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Authorities confirmed Saturday that a construction worker was killed when a concrete balcony collapsed on top of him at an oceanfront condominium in Sea Isle City.
The worker was identified as Jose Pereira, 43, of Philadelphia. He was employed by a private company that had been working on the exterior of the south tower of the Spinnaker condominium complex at 3700 Boardwalk.
Pereira was trapped in rubble after a balcony on the eighth floor of the Spinnaker collapsed at around 2:20 p.m. Friday. He was working on a seventh-floor balcony directly below at Unit 712, authorities said.
Two other construction workers were on the balcony on the eighth floor when it collapsed, police said. They suffered only minor injuries and were treated at the scene.
According to a news release by the Sea Isle City Police Department, Pereira was pinned under a 30-foot slab of concrete until emergency crews were able to recover his body. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 9:42 p.m. by a Cape May County forensic nurse.
“As a result of the victim’s location, a coordinated recovery plan was developed to breach the outside wall of the building near the victim by cutting through approximately 12 inches of reinforced concrete, after the 7th floor balcony was temporarily stabilized from underneath. Once an opening was created in the wall, the concrete slab was lifted by heavy lift air bags and the victim was successfully recovered,” the release stated.
After the balcony collapsed, Sea Isle City police, fire and EMS crews attempted to reach the worker, but observed significant cracks in the surrounding area and a slope to the balcony, according to the release.
At that point, it was determined that the side of the building was unsafe and requests were made for additional rescue personnel and equipment. As a precaution, all residents were evacuated from the building, according to the release.
The Cape May County and Camden County Regional Urban Search and Rescue Teams responded, along with Strathmere, Ocean City, Marmora, Stone Harbor and Wildwood fire departments.
All of the decks on the exterior of the Spinnaker’s south tower, near where the accident occurred, are currently being stabilized. Once the building is considered safe, further evaluations on both the Spinnaker’s south and north towers will be conducted by private engineers, the release says.
Pereira was employed by Ferguson Contracting Inc., of Yardley, Pa., according to the release. The company could not be immediately reached Saturday for comment. Ferguson Contracting specializes in concrete repairs, masonry restoration, waterproofing and historic restoration of buildings, the company’s website says.
The accident is under investigation by Sea Isle police detectives, with assistance from the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Cape May County Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Weapons Coordinator, Cape May County Communications and the Cape May County Emergency Medical Coordinator also assisted with the operation.
The Spinnaker condominiums were built in the early 1970s and include twin north and south towers nine stories tall overlooking the ocean.
Each condo has a balcony facing the ocean, while most of the three-bedroom units also have a larger balcony on the side of the building, according to a history of the Spinnaker’s construction posted online. It was one of the side balconies that collapsed on the eighth floor.