Accident at a demolition site in west Tulsa kills worker

Friday, June 21st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A man died during the demolition of Tulsa's old Mark Twain Elementary School Friday.

He was operating a track hoe, when the ground gave way and it fell into a basement below. It created a very dangerous situation for rescue crews, who had to work slowly to recover the driver.

Construction crews for Ark Wrecking went from tearing down the old school into a frantic rescue mode, but there was nothing they could do to save their co-worker. Tulsa Fire Department Captain Hubert Rouse, "There was a false basement maybe the operator was not aware of and it collapsed on him."

The operator was using a track hoe to remove debris that demolition crews created. He was on the first floor of the school, which was made of concrete. The basement underneath had been converted into classrooms at some point and the concrete gave way. The track hoe and the driver in the cab fell with it; he was trapped and crushed by heavy rock and concrete.

The track hoe stopped about three feet from the basement floor and was hanging precariously, making it tough on the rescue workers. Fire Captain David Umfleet, "What makes it more dangerous is they started demolition, and injure rescuers."

Bigger equipment allowed the workers to fasten cables to the toppled over track hoe and keep it stable so a crane could pull it out safely. Workers used other track hoes to dig out some of the rubble near the wreckage and made way for workers to get in close. The accident was devastating for the other men on the work crew and for his wife and son, who got word of the tragedy and raced to the scene. The victim's name has not yet been released.

The Mark Twain Elementary School was built in the early 20's. The school was abandoned last fall when the new Mark Twain opened just north of the old one.