A 23-year-old man who was ejected from a man lift at a construction site in Bayfield last week died Saturday.
Roy Vreeland, deputy chief with the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District, said Monday that the man was working with a construction crew contracted by the city of Bayfield to rebuild the Bayfield Parkway over Los Pinos River.
The construction projects are ongoing to replace bridges that date to the 1930s and have been deemed functionally obsolete. The area is “Twin Bridges,” a site near downtown Bayfield, about 20 miles east of Durango.
The man’s family identified him as Brian John Anthony Shaw, known as B.J., of Trinidad.
According to Fire Chief Bruce Evans, Shaw, an employee of Centennial-based SEMA Construction Inc., was trying to fix a man lift that had a wheel that went off the side of a dirt road.
Reports of the incident indicate Shaw had locked himself into the basket before the man lift went off the road.
However, in the process of fixing the lift, Shaw forgot to lock himself into the basket that is at the top of the lift, and he was ejected when the lift went further off the road. He fell about 40 feet and landed on a survey stick that punctured his abdomen, Evans said.
Shaw was the only person operating the lift, Evans said.
“Even with all that safety education, you just have a momentary lapse while trying to fix something, and it just takes a few seconds of not slowing down and following procedure,” Evans said.
Shaw was flown to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Lakewood in stable condition. On Saturday, the man died, according to his family.
Evans said he was informed Shaw died of a staph infection, which is common with an open-wound abdominal injury.
“When it’s an open wound, it immediately introduces bacteria,” he said. “It can get out of hand and life-threatening pretty quickly. ... But it surprises me. I didn’t think the injury was fatal.”
According to Vreeland, city officials met in Bayfield on Monday morning to discuss the incident. A public information officer with the Bayfield Twin Bridges Project declined to comment.
Calls to SEMA Construction were also not returned Monday.
Steve Yellstrom, assistant director in Englewood for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency that sets and enforces workplace safety measures, confirmed the agency is investigating the incident but did not have additional information.
Yellstrom said OSHA does have requirements and protocols for workers operating a man lift, but it depends on the specific equipment.
Evans said Shaw had been working with SEMA Construction for about three months and was a “pretty well-liked guy.” He said the CEO and owner of SEMA Construction immediately flew to Bayfield after learning about the incident.
“They tried to find out why this happened and how to prevent it,” he said. “This is not some slipshod company. They’re very conscientious in what they do and frankly devastated that something like this could happen at one of their sites.”
Whitney Shaw, B.J. Shaw’s stepmother, said he grew up in Trinidad and was well-loved by the community. He studied auto-diesel mechanic school at WyoTech, a technical college in Wyoming, she said.
Whitney Shaw said the family recently lost contact with B.J. Shaw, so she was unsure how long he had lived in Southwest Colorado, or what originally brought him to the area.