Most of the 1,200 workers building the new Minnesota Vikings stadium picked up their tools and returned to work Thursday, a day after one of their own died in a fall from the roof and another was injured.
The two men were employees of North St. Paul-based Berwald Roofing. The company released a statement saying the injured employee, whom they did not identify, received 48 stitches and staples for a deep cut on his leg and was released from Hennepin County Medical Center.
The victim, believed to be a 34-year-old man from St. Francis, Minn., who started at the site in early April, was injured on the roof of the structure. His colleague, Jeramie Gruber, 35, died after a 50-foot fall from the U.S. Bank Stadium roof into a snow gutter at 7:45 a.m. Wednesday. He was pronounced dead at HCMC several hours after the fall.
In a brief written statement Thursday, Mortenson Construction executive John Wood said counselors would remain on site as long as needed to help workers cope with the “tragic event.”
Few new details emerged as an investigation was underway by Berwald, Mortenson and Minnesota’s Occupational Safety and Health Division, sometimes known as MNOSHA. Details won’t be public until the investigation is finished. There is no set time frame for completion other than the six-month federal deadline.
“The main goal is we’ll work with folks on-site to make sure whatever happened doesn’t occur again,” said James Honerman, spokesman for MNOSHA.
Work on the project stopped shortly after the incident Wednesday, with the 1,200 employees sent home for the day as Mortenson and Berwald executives expressed condolences to the families of the two men.
Friends described Gruber, a Faribault High School graduate, as an avid fisherman who frequented the dozen or so lakes around his hometown.
“He was always outgoing, gregarious, fun-loving,” said Bob Rempfert, his high school history teacher. “He was a special kid.”
Given his affinity for sports, “I imagine he was thrilled to be working on the new Vikings stadium and probably would have been proud to tell his kids that he helped build it,” Rempfert said.
“I just know, knowing him back then, he would have been thrilled to be working on something like that.”
The $1.1 billion stadium project is closely watched both because the Vikings are the state’s most popular professional franchise and their new home is the biggest private-public partnership in state history.
At the site, workers were back Thursday everywhere except the north side of the roof, where the incident occurred.
Cameron Snyder, a spokesman for Golden Valley-based Mortenson, said the company wanted to ensure that the area was safe before sending workers back up.
The stadium is 10 months from opening for the 2016 NFL season. Construction of the roof is expected to be done by winter so the remaining interior work can be completed.
The investigation into the stadium accident will proceed privately, involving interviews of workers, as well as reviews of the site, training and safety procedures. Upon completion, a state investigator will prepare a report of the findings and the basis for any proposed citations and penalties.
Mortenson will have an opportunity to protest the findings and penalties, if any are levied. If there is a citation connected to the death, the minimum fine is $25,000.
Long before the fatal incident, Mortenson executives had repeatedly and publicly emphasized safety. The company was seeking a prestigious safety designation for the project.
Toward that goal, it voluntarily brought extra state safety and health inspectors to the site for consultation on training and safety standards.