Family Mourns Plymouth Man Killed in Construction Accident

Updated: 11/19/2013 4:57 PM By: Maricella Miranda

Johnny Valek, 61, was ID'd as the worker killed.
Johnny Valek, 61, was ID'd as the worker killed.
Photo: Photo courtesy of the family of Johnny Valek

A Plymouth man has been identified as the worker killed during a partial building collapse at the site of the future St. Paul Saints stadium in downtown St. Paul.

Police on Tuesday afternoon identified Johnny Valek, 61, as the worker killed.

The former Gillette building is being demolished to clear the site for the Lowertown Ballpark. The building is in the area of East Fifth Street and Broadway.

Officials say the collapse happened around 8 a.m. Tuesday. As heavy equipment operators were demolishing the building, a portion of the concrete structure supporting the building fell onto the cab of one of the backhoes involved in the demolition, according to Collin Barr, president of the NorthCentral Region of Ryan Companies, which is heading the project.

Valek, the victim, was a heavy equipment operator for Rachel Contracting, a subcontractor of Ryan Companies, Barr reported.

"All of us at Ryan are deeply saddened, and our sympathies go out to family members and collegues," Barr said in a statement. "We're also working with the family and Johnny's coworkers to offer grief counseling and support."

Emergency crews said it was too late to help when they arrived. As of Tuesday afternoon, they removed the concrete and recovered the victim's body.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the case. The site currently is shut down during the investigation.

Ryan is cooperating fully with the investigation, Barr said. "Ryan has one of the best construction safety records in the industry," Barr said, "And we take incidents like this very seriously."

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman released the following statement following the fatal accident:

“My heart goes out to the family of the worker who was tragically killed during demolition of the Gillette Building in Lowertown earlier today. Construction work can be a dangerous job, and so today I am thankful to all the men and women in construction trades who day in and day out work to make our community a better place.”

A statement from the family of Johnny Valek was released.

"We want to thank everyone for their thoughts, support and prayers today, as we are forced to say goodbye far too soon to John, a beloved father, brother, relative and friend."

Click here to read the full statement from the family.