Police and state officials are investigating the death of a 41-year-old Warrenton man who was crushed by a forklift Tuesday while working on an addition to the Wakefield School in The Plains.
Eugene Newton Ball was using a palette loaded with prefabricated concrete slabs as a platform when the fully extended forklift tipped over, officials said. Ball was tethered to the end of the machine and couldn't jump free when it crashed 27 feet to the ground, police said. He was pinned underneath and pronounced dead at the scene.
A preliminary investigation determined that Ball should not have been permitted to use the forklift as a platform on which to stand, since the heavy slabs created an unstable condition, said Capt. Fred Pfeiff, of the Fauquier County Sheriff's Department. "I would say that the practice at the time would be considered very unsafe," Pfeiff said. "It probably doesn't conform to safety practices."
In addition to an investigation to determine whether there was criminal negligence in Ball's death, which occurred about 7:50 a.m., the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry is conducting its own inquiry.
Ball was employed by Bontrager Masonry Inc., based in Catlett. Phone calls there were not returned. Bontrager was a subcontractor for Miller Bros. Construction, based in Warrenton. Employees at Miller Bros. said officials there would not comment on the accident.
Pfeiff said the driver of the forklift had been interviewed Tuesday, along with a handful of other eyewitnesses. There were no children among the eyewitnesses, since June 11 was the last day of classes at the private school on Old Tavern Road.
Ball was part of a crew working on a $2 million building to house grades eight through 12 at the school, which begins at pre-kindergarten. Ground for the three-story, 17,000-square-foot building was broken in August.
The new building will have a library and an auditorium with a 70-foot ceiling, said Sheila Turner, spokeswoman for the 315-student school, who said school officials were saddened by the accident.
The addition is expected to be completed by fall.