Worker dies at abandoned Aspen school |

Worker dies at abandoned Aspen school

John Colson
Aspen Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

ASPEN, Colorado ” A wall fell at the old Aspen Middle School on Wednesday morning, crushing and killing a 29-year-old man working on the asbestos abatement and demolition of the building.

Juan Ruiz died of severe head injuries after a cinder block wall fell on him, said Jenniger Diamond, Piktin County deputy coroner.

The accident was called in to local authorities at 9:20 a.m., by workers of the company working at the abandoned school building, ESA of Denver.

According to Jeff Lumsden, patrol director for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, Ruiz was working alongside his brother on the third floor of the school when the wall fell on him.

Emergency services personnel reportedly performed cardio-pulminary resuscitation techniques at the site of the accident and in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, but to no avail.

Aspen Schools Superintendent Diana Sirko said the wall was “the last free-standing wall to come out in the old lockers area” on that floor. She said it was not a weight-bearing wall.

The dead man was part of a crew working to remove toxic asbestos from the old school, which stands right next to a new school completed last year.

The original plans called for the old school to have been demolished, and replaced by an open playground area. But officials discovered last year that the building contained vermiculite, a naturally occuring mineral that in some cases contains asbestos and has been linked to lung disease.

Federal health regulations required that the school district call in professional abatement crews to remove the vermiculite before the building could be demolished.

Lumsden said the investigation of the incident will be handed off to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is sending an inspector to Aspen.

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