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YOUNGSTOWN Man killed at site of demolition

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Both men ran to avoid the falling beam, but Charles Thomas ran into its path.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A Youngstown man died in an accident at a downtown demolition site Saturday.
Charles Thomas, 55, of 131 Boardman Street, was crushed by a falling steel beam at the corner of Front and Phelps streets just after noon. The William Pizzuto Co. is tearing down a parking garage on the block bordered by Front, Phelps, West Boardman and Hazel streets.
According to police reports, a worker for the construction company was using a crane to lift a steel beam, but the cables on the crane became stuck on a piece of wood and the beam began to fall.
Thomas, talking to another man, was standing on the sidewalk in the vicinity of the demolition work, the report shows. Reports say both men began to run in opposite directions when they saw the beam falling, but Thomas ended up in the falling steel's path. Police said he died before help arrived.
The steel beam that hit Thomas is used to protect streetlight poles from falling debris during the demolition process.
Under investigation
A spokesman for the Youngstown Police Department said it is unclear if any charges will be filed. He said police are still investigating.
William Pizzuto, owner of the demolition company, said Thomas had been a common sight around the demolition area. He said workers had asked him to leave the area several times before the accident, but he would usually come back.
"When I left to go to lunch, [Thomas] was standing there on the corner in front of the [Trinity United Methodist] church," he said.
According to Pizzuto, the area around the demolition site was roped off.
Family and friends of Thomas', a steel worker on disability, said it was a part of his nature to be around construction or demolition sites, making conversation with whomever he could. His sister, LaJena Solomon, said he just liked to watch the work.
She had gathered Saturday evening with friends of her brother's outside Amedia Plaza, West Boardman Street, where he lived.
"He was always just the type of person that was just there -- no matter where you looked, he would be there, talking and being friendly," she said.
Several of Thomas' neighbors described him as a caring man who was always looking to make new friends and lend a hand when needed.