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D.C. Worker Collapses at DMV, Dies

Colleagues Say Fumes Hampered Breathing

By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 8, 2005; Page B10

A D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles employee collapsed Tuesday while working at the city's inspection station on Half Street SW and later died.

Department officials said Alfred L. Staton, 41, an inspector, collapsed shortly before 8 a.m. Employees called 911 and went across the street to a fire station for help, but Staton later died.

Alfred L. Staton worked at this D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles inspection station in the 1000 block of Half Street SW in the District. He collapsed Tuesday while at work. (Dudley M. Brooks -- The Washington Post)

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The cause of death is under investigation.

"We're deeply saddened by his loss. He was a wonderful employee and will be missed," said Janis Hazel, a DMV spokeswoman. She said Staton had worked for the department for about five years.

Taxicab Commissioner Sandra Seegars said employees at the station told her that Staton had been hospitalized for breathing problems and that he had asked his supervisors for a transfer from the station.

"Workers at the station said he was complaining about the fumes affecting him and wanted a transfer out of there," said Seegars, who is also an advisory neighborhood commissioner.

DMV Director Anne Witt said she was not aware of prior emergencies involving Staton at the station or that he had asked to be reassigned for health reasons.

"There is nothing about this that indicates it is a work-related death other than it occurred at work," Witt said.

"I am aware of no earlier incident," she said.

Staton was working the line of vehicles outside of the partially enclosed shed where the inspections take place.

DMV officials said the station is in compliance with all local and federal environmental and workplace regulations. Witt said she welcomes any additional scrutiny, saying the department would comply with all necessary regulations and paperwork.

"It makes sense that they will check whatever they need to check, and they should," she said.

Witt said the agency will consider closing the station for a short time to allow employees to attend the funeral.

Co-workers also have contacted D.C. Council member Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) about renaming the inspection station for Staton. "I would love to do something," Brown said. "My prayers go out to him and his family."

Witt said DMV officials and grief counselors went to the station shortly after Staton's death to talk to employees. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) gave his condolences to the family, his spokesman said.

Staton's family could not be reached for comment.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company