In a dramatic lunchtime accident yesterday, a construction-lift operator harnessed to a 125-foot boom was inspecting a church for loose masonry when the lift suddenly toppled over, killing him and injuring three others in Center City.
At 1:13 p.m. yesterday, witnesses said, the operator, Jimmy Wilson, 41, of Franklinville, N.J., was screaming atop the boom of the lift as it fell, gouging out the roof of a five-story apartment building, knocking down a streetlight, and landing atop a Verizon truck parked on 21st Street near Walnut.
A Verizon worker was standing alongside the truck when “the boom hit the truck and a body fell beside him,” said John Soda, local manager of construction with Verizon. “He was shaken up pretty bad,” Soda said.
“It was mayhem,” said driver Marvin Little, 43, who was waiting in traffic after delivering flowers for Natures Gallery Florist, on Walnut near 21st. “People screaming, bricks falling, sparks from the traffic light and pole all at once. It was like an earthquake.”
Inside the flower shop, Little’s boss, Mohammad Nematic, 52, said when he looked out his 21st Street window, “I saw a man by the Verizon truck, hanging under the crane, his head was down, and the color of his face was blue. He was bleeding from his nose and head.”
“A lady was wedged under the crane,” said Little, who got out of the car to help her. “It was unreal, unreal.”
Meantime, debris from the damaged apartment roof crashed on top of a parked black Toyota Corolla, damaging its roof, smashing the front windshield and breaking out the rear window. Inside the car at 21st and Walnut were a 65-year-old man and a 67-year-old woman.
Pedestrians rushed to help them out of the car and walk across the street, said witnesses. The woman got out of the car saying, “I’m OK, I’m OK.”
As debris rained on cars waiting for the light to change, a frightened Tina Marie Shumakeris, 9, heard screaming and “just opened the car door and ran across the street,” said her mother, Tina Marie Shumakeris, 26.
“It was really a horrific scene,” Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said. “We were just fortunate it was a holiday because it would have been tons more traffic and tons more people.”
An investigation was opened by the city Police, Fire and Licenses and Inspections departments, Philadelphia Gas Works and Peco Energy, Fire Capt. John Cleary said. There was a possibility that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration would take over the probe.