CAA Remembers Fallen Worker

July 3, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — It was the first fatal accident on a downtown construction project in about two decades, and quite possibly the first ever for a largely publicly funded project in the central business district.

On June 18, 20-year-old Adam Petruska died when a large concrete wall in the Welsh Auditorium broke free and crushed him. The 500 who attended his funeral in Sparta remembered Petruska as a loving son, a good friend and a hard worker.

Recently, the Convention and Arena Authority paid its respects.

Petruska was an employee of Erhardt Construction, which is managing the convention center building project with The Hunt Group of Indianapolis. Recently, the firm publicly thanked those who lent a helping hand in the rescue effort at the worksite.

“The construction team is very appreciative of all the help it received,” said Larry Erhardt, chairman of Erhardt Construction.

Wesley Dickson, founder and CEO of Advanced Equipment Corp. of Fullerton, Calif., a subcontractor on the project, said the DeVos Place construction site was the safest his firm has worked on in recent years.

But adding more misery to what has already been termed a tragic accident is the fact that, under the state Worker’s Disability Compensation Act of 1969, Petruska’s parents are only entitled to receive a death benefit worth $6,000. Also known as Act 317, the statute limits the death benefit to $6,000 or the actual burial cost, whichever is less, if the deceased didn’t have any dependents.

“If there are no dependents, the only death benefit payable is the burial allowance of $6,000,” said Jim Rinck, a local attorney. “In this case, his parents will get a burial benefit from worker’s comp.”

Mayor John Logie, who also chairs the CAA, the public body that owns the convention center, said he met with the family shortly after the accident.

“We are truly saddened for what happened. It was a truly terrible accident,” said Logie. “On behalf of the board, we express our deepest sympathy.”

The CAA is likely to honor Petruska with a plaque in the new building.

The Michigan Occupational Health and Safety Administration is investigating the incident and is expected to file its report within six months.

A worker on the Plaza Towers construction project slipped while on the building’s roof and fell to his death. That accident took place about 20 years ago.           

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