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OSHA Investigating Fatal Fall at Wheeling’s Boury Building

WHEELING – A fatal construction accident in downtown Wheeling is under investigation by federal officials, but there’s no timetable for findings to be released.

An Occupational Safety and Health Administration official confirmed Tuesday the agency is looking into the death of South Wheeling resident Kevin Purpura, an employee of Sandow Development who fell several stories while working inside the former Boury Warehouse on Friday afternoon. OSHA typically investigates any fatality at a private-sector workplace.

Wheeling police said Purpura, 39, apparently lost his balance and fell three stories while inspecting metal studding surrounding an elevator shaft.

The six-story, 120-year-old former warehouse at 16th and Main streets is being converted into roughly 70 loft-style apartments by the Woda Group of Westerville, Ohio. Sandow Development, based in Wheeling, is a contractor for the project.

Prentice Cline, area director for OSHA’s Charleston office, said the agency conducted a walkthrough of the site Friday evening to gather preliminary information, and an OSHA compliance officer visited the site over the weekend. He said the agency will complete a “comprehensive” inspection of the Boury Warehouse to determine if any violations of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 occurred.

Cline did not have any information on what the preliminary walkthrough revealed. By law, OSHA must issue citations for any alleged violations within six months of their occurrence, he said, but he could not provide a more specific timetable for completion of the investigation.

“It may not take that long. … It’s highly variable. We spend as much time as necessary to be thorough,” Cline said.

Although Purpura was working for Sandow Development, Cline said any entity involved at a work site where a fatality occurs is subject to investigation.

Cline added there is an emphasis program within OSHA’s Region 3 – covering West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C. – focusing on preventing falls within the workplace.

“Fall hazards are the No. 1 killer in the construction industry,” he said.

The $13 million Boury Lofts are scheduled for completion late this year or in early 2017. The Woda Group operates the Stone Center Lofts, Capital Greene and Providence Greene apartments in Wheeling and the Heathermoor and Stone Brook Apartments in Weirton.

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