A Philadelphia construction worker is in critical condition after touching unprotected electric lines at what city officials said was an illegal construction site in the fast-changing neighborhood west of Temple University.
Doctors were treating Rashir Cromwell, 35, on Wednesday in the burn unit at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. Cromwell also fractured his back. The bricklayer "fell from the roof" at 1806 W. Montgomery Ave. on Tuesday morning, city police spokeswoman Tanya Little said.
Cromwell worked for McGee Plastering & Stucco of Upper Darby. Owner Darren McGee referred questions to his lawyer, who did not return calls.
The accident happened two days shy of the six-month anniversary of the deadly Market Street collapse of a Salvation Army thrift shop. Six people died - and lawsuits have been filed - for what inspectors claim was the improper demolition of an adjoining building.
In September, McGee, a non-union contractor, was hit with $85,800 in "proposed penalties" by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for "repeated" safety violations on a job at 1201 Latona St. in South Philadelphia. Violations included "a lack of fall protection."
McGee was cited again in November and assessed $89,760 for violations at 274 Leverington Ave. in Manayunk, OSHA spokeswoman Leni Fortson said. McGee also had violations in 2010 and 2011, according to the agency.
After Cromwell was taken to the hospital Tuesday, city Licenses and Inspections staffers issued a cease-and-desist order and stopped work at the site.
Al Martino, a bricklayers union representative, said Cromwell was a former union member who has been working nonunion jobs for contractors like McGee "because [Cromwell] needed income."
Martino visited Cromwell at Crozer on Tuesday. "He's in an induced coma. They're trying to stabilize his heart before they can operate on his neck and his back," Martino said.
The house is owned by a firm controlled by developer Shawn Bullard, who played strong safety for the Temple University football team from 2001 to 2005. Another Bullard firm, Konkrete Investments, is general contractor for the site.
The wires that crippled Cromwell "were not properly covered prior to work," L&I spokeswoman Rebecca Swanson said.
"Everything was being done illegally, without proper permits," she said. "If they had done things properly, they would have called the city for the initial inspection, and inspectors would have told them to get those wires covered and call Peco. And we would notify OSHA."
Bullard applied for a building permit and was approved this year, but paid for it and made it valid only on Tuesday afternoon - after the accident and after much of the work was done. L&I did not know about the accident when it validated the permit.
That's a coincidence, according to Bullard. He said he was in Miami until Tuesday morning. "I didn't even know about the man falling until after I got the permit," he said.
He called it "a mix-up" that he had not paid the fee. Bullard said L&I had separately issued foundation, plumbing, electrical, and sprinkler permits for the site.
Bullard also said he told McGee to fire Cromwell for poor performance. "It's an unfortunate situation. But the guy falling off the scaffolding is more an issue and concern of McGee," Bullard added. "I think I'm cool."
Swanson said L&I would begin the process to conduct an administrative hearing on Bullard's firm "doing all that work without permits."