By Jim Smith
QUINCY, Mass. — Two young men from Ireland were killed last Tuesday when the scaffold on which they were working collapsed, causing them to plunge 75 feet to their death.
Shane McGettigan, 21, of Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim, and 23-year-old Ronan Stewart of Dundalk, Co. Louth, were removing bricks from the side of a 12-story condominium in Quincy when the scaffold buckled beneath them.
The victims had been removing the water-damaged bricks throughout the day from upper floors of the condominium, leaving them on the wooden platforms as they descended. When they got down to the sixth floor, the bottom portion of the metal scaffolding gave way.
Stewart died instantly after the fall, while McGettigan died later that afternoon at Quincy Hospital after being pulled from beneath several tons of debris by Quincy firefighters.
Federal safety officials suspect that excessive weight from the bricks left on the platforms above the victims may have caused the tragic accident, although the official investigation could take six months.
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"Scaffolding systems can only handle a certain amount of weight, and we’re in the process of carefully weighing all the bricks and planks that were up there," said Patrick Griffin of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is conducting the probe into the accident.
"We’ll be looking into a number of issues, including the training that the workers received," Griffin said. "Under the code of the federal regulations, people who erect scaffolds have to be trained and competent, and the people who work off them have to receive user-training. Whether the men who were killed received adequate training — I can’t answer that at this point."
Griffin said that, as of late last week, he had received very little cooperation from company employers involved with the project. "Everybody’s got a lawyer, and people are reluctant to talk to us at this point," he said. According to Griffin, the company which hired the two Irishmen, G&W Construction, did not even send a representative to the accident scene to meet with investigators.
OSHA records also show that Diversified Contracting Inc., which subcontracted the brick-repair work to G&W, has paid more than $18,000 in fines for 10 serious safety violations in the past two years. In addition, Metropolitan Scaffold Inc., which provided the staging on which McGettigan and Stewart were working, has also been cited numerous times by OSHA for safety violations.
"Our primary task now is to determine if there were any violations of the federal codes which contributed to this tragedy," Griffin said. "If we get the cooperation we need, we could wrap up the investigation in the coming months."
Shane McGettigan, only son of award-winning musical composer Charlie McGettigan, had come to Boston on July 20 to work and play in the local GAA league. A student at Dublin City University, he was also a talented member of the Allen Gaels GAA Club in County Leitrim.
Ronan Stewart had just served three years as a private in the Irish Army before arriving in Boston in mid-summer.
A memorial Mass for the two men was said Saturday at St. Theresa’ Church in West Roxbury. Funeral services and interment were held in their homeland earlier this week.