Worker falls to his death at Crystal Court in IDS Tower

One of two men clearing snow off the roof of the Crystal Court inside the IDS Tower in downtown Minneapolis fell five to six stories to his death.

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Two paramedics and a Minneapolis police officer stood near the body of the maintenance worker who fell to his death Wednesday afternoon in the Crystal Court in Minneapolis. Most entrances to the building were closed as a result.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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One of two men clearing snow off the roof of the IDS Tower's Crystal Court in downtown Minneapolis fell five to six stories to his death shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday.

The victim, Fidel Danilo Sanchez-Flores, 52, of West St. Paul, worked for Columbia Building Services, a small business in northeast Minneapolis.

No one on the ground was hurt, but the Crystal Court, which features a canopy of cube-shaped glass skylights, was closed the rest of the day.

The death is at least the third in downtown Minneapolis in the past two years involving a worker falling in a tall building.

In 2005 and 2006 two workers died in falls while building the 40-story Carlyle Condominiums at 1st Street and 3rd Avenue S.

On Wednesday afternoon, Michelle Ochs, who works downtown, was walking on the skyway level of the Crystal Court shortly before the accident. She said she heard a crash, and part of the Plexiglas ceiling rained shards and large fragments to the granite floor. Sanchez-Flores landed not far from the court's giant Christmas tree.

"It was like something from a movie," Ochs said, holding her hands to her face.

For a moment, the court was silent, then came screams and gasps as a few passersby and then emergency medical personnel hovered over the man and tried to resuscitate him. Soon, a white sheet covered the body and security guards evacuated the skyway and closed street entrances.

Sanchez-Flores landed about 15 to 20 feet from some of the people passing through Crystal Court, said workers who watched the fall at the court's Mission American restaurant. "It was very sad ... just terrible," said hostess Berta Herman.

She said he was wearing what looked like a safety belt with no rope attached.

Questions about harness

Police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia said it wasn't clear if Sanchez-Flores' belt failed or wasn't attached. He was clearing snow on a tiered roof and fell a story or more before crashing through the ceiling.

An employee at Columbia Building Services, which specializes in window cleaning and snow removal, said Columbia is a small, close-knit company whose staff was hit hard by Sanchez-Flores' death. He said executives were at the accident scene and had no immediate comment.

The 51-story IDS Tower also has had two suicides. A 30-year-old man leaped from the building in February 2001, and a 32-year-old man jumped from it in 1996.

Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report. Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376 Tim Harlow• 612-673-7768 Jim Adams • 612-673-7658

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