Contractor offers condolences for wall’s collapse in Daly City

| August 02, 2006

Officials say event was beyond ‘worst-case scenario’ for site

The San Francisco contractor and owner of a former grocery store site in Daly City offered his condolences to the family of a woman killed when a wall collapsed at the site but did not comment on the circumstances behind the accident.

"We had a tragic, tragic, tragic accident, and my heart goes out to the victim and the victim’s family," Fergus O’Sullivan said. "I still can’t believe an accident like that happened."

Just before 3 p.m. on Monday afternoon, a 60-foot-long, 20-foot-tall wall fell onto Rio Verde Street, killing Gregoria Custodio, who was sitting in her parked car. Construction crews were in the process of demolishing a former El Rancho Market on Geneva Avenue to build a 15,000-square-foot mixed-use development.

O’Sullivan has no other project sites in Daly City, City Manager Pat Martel said.

Officials from the state Contractors Licensing Board said O’Sullivan had a clean record, while the California office of Occupational Safety and Health Administration noted only a 2003 complaint that ultimately resulted in a $50 fine, Cal/OSHA spokesman Dean Fryer said.

To demolish the market, O’Sullivan Construction received an encroachment permit from Daly City officials to block off the sidewalk along Rio Verde, but the firm was not required to prohibit parking along the side of the street where the wall fell.

"We would not expect [the accident] to occur because [crews] were pulling the building down onto the project site," Martel said. "The worst-case scenario that we could imagine was that debris would fall onto the sidewalk."

Martel said Daly City was not liable "in any way" because it was not a city project and the contractor had a valid certificate of insurance. She added that neither the city’s police nor fire departments were investigating the matter, but the city would "always block parking as well from now on." Martel expected the demolition to resume in a matter of days.

Though no construction workers were injured, Cal/OSHA is investigating the incident because workers were exposed to potential injury, Fryer said.

One theory behind the downed wall, Martel said, was the wind Monday. Tom Perlite, owner of the nearby Golden Gate Orchids nursery, said it was typically windy in that area during the afternoon but more so than usual Monday.

Due to the incident, the Red Cross is sheltering seven residents of a threatened house directly behind the site, volunteer Marilyn Johnson said.

Nick Lopes, Custodio’s cousin, said he had no idea why she was in the area.

He said his cousin, whom he called a "good-hearted woman" who "cared for people," was 45 years old, had two adult daughters and lived in Fairfield. He said he didn’t know if the family was pursuing a lawsuit in Custodio’s death.

dsmith@examiner.com

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