'Everyone seemed surprised that I was alive,' says fall guy Seriously injured construction worker just glad to be alive

June 27, 1996|By Alex Gordon | Alex Gordon,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Construction worker Kenneth Crawford, operating a small Bobcat front-end loader on the sixth floor of a Charles Village apartment building Monday afternoon, clearly remembers the moment he realized he was about to go on a free fall.

"Instead of looking across at the building next door, I was looking down and I knew that something was wrong," Crawford said, in an interview yesterday from his bed at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. "I just closed my eyes and held onto the sides and waited for the 'boom.' All I hoped was that when I hit the ground, I would be all right."

Crawford, 38, suffered several badly "busted up" vertebrae after the Bobcat fell more than 60 feet to the ground -- flipping once before landing upright on its wheels. He will require a body cast to immobilize his back, and possible surgery. Yet he still has free movement in his arms and legs. He smiles warmly, recalling his plunge and knowing that he will literally be able to walk away from this accident.

"Everyone seemed surprised that I was alive. Even I was surprised that I was alive when I opened my eyes. I didn't know what I'd see," Crawford said.

"I am thankful to be alive and I thank God," he said. "He and my [late] father must have been there with me and caught me."

Robert Isennock, president of Stop Construction Co., said what he saw was nothing short of miraculous.

"He was awake and conscious -- and remarkably calm," said Isennock, the first person on the accident scene. "In most cases, a fall like his could have been much worse. The safety equipment in the Bobcat held him in place until the paramedics )) arrived."

How the Bobcat landed was as significant as where it landed, Crawford said.

The Bobcat settled right side up on the edge of a pit and narrowly missed plummeting another 20 feet, he said.

Crawford, who was performing interior demolition on the sixth floor of the building in the 3000 block of N. Charles St., calmly recalled the events that led to his free fall.

He said that after collecting debris in the Bobcat's bucket, he drove the loader to the edge of a hole cut in the building's side to drop the debris to piles on the ground below.

"All of a sudden the Bobcat stopped on the edge and began to tilt," Crawford said. "I think that the debris in the bucket, which was saturated with water, was too heavy."

Isennock said Crawford is a "great guy and a conscientious employee," and his co-workers were emotional after the accident. The construction company shut down all work at its 10 sites on Tuesday so that workers could meet to discuss the accident, Isennock added.

Spokesmen from the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Agency and the Worker's Compensation Commission said both agencies are investigating the accident and the construction site, but would not comment further.

After his remarkable fall from six stories high, Crawford said he looks ahead with confidence to recovering and getting back to work, though with lighter duties.

"I'm too old to change jobs now," he chuckled. "I will go on a Bobcat again -- but only if it is on the ground."

Pub Date: 6/27/96

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