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Workers, others gather to remember victims of scaffolding collapse

Posted March 27, 2015
Updated March 28, 2015

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— Four days after three of their colleagues fell to their deaths as the scaffolding on a downtown Raleigh high-rise crumpled, construction workers gathered Friday to remember them and comfort each other.

Jose Erasmo Hernandez, 41, Anderson Almeida, 33, both of Durham, and Jose Luis Lopez-Ramirez, 33, of Clinton, died Monday in the accident at the 11-story Charter Square project on Fayetteville Street. Elmer Guevara, 53, was seriously injured and remains hospitalized at WakeMed.

State and federal investigators said it could take months to determine the cause of the accident, which occurred as crews were dismantling the scaffold, and whether any workplace safety violations occurred.

"Anytime any tragedy like this occurs, it should be in our nature to want to help," said Gaddis Faulcon, interim president of Shaw University, which hosted a noontime prayer service on its campus – about two blocks from the accident site.

About two dozen workers, many wearing yellow safety vests, took their lunch hour Friday to walk to Shaw's chapel, where they were joined by scores of students and others in a show of support.

"These hard-working men rolled up their sleeves every day and did what most others, quite frankly, couldn’t do," Faulcon said during the service. "They traveled from other countries so they could have a better future and opportunities."

Three empty chairs sat at the front of the chapel to symbolize the absence of Hernandez, Almeida and Lopez-Ramirez.

"As a community of faith, we feel the hurt. We know their families are involved; they left children and wives," said Annie Tinsley, an assistant professor at Shaw's Divinity School. "As part of this community, it’s a loss for us."

Raleigh City Councilman Eugene Weeks prayed for both the victims and the men still working on the Charter Square project.

"Thank you for the lives of our departed brothers. Their presence will be lost by their families and their co-workers," Weeks said. "Comfort our grieving hearts and bless the memories of the men who are gone now."

Tanya Wiley said she had no connection to the victims but still felt she had to attend the prayer service.

"I didn’t know these gentlemen. I didn’t know who they were, but they were a part of this community, our community," Wiley said. "We are all human beings, and at the end of the day, we have to be concerned about one another."

Donations for victims accepted

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh said Friday that it is collecting donations for the victims of the scaffolding collapse. The organization is working with Dominion Realty Partners, general contractor Choate Construction Co. and subcontractor Juba Aluminum Products Inc.

“The suffering of these four families is simply unimaginable," Gary Skinner, executive director of Catholic Charities, said in a statement. "The men who died and the man suffering from his injuries were working hard to provide for their families. We pray that those in the community would respond generously to assist our brothers and sisters in need. Of all the challenges these families face, perhaps we can at least alleviate some of the financial hardship.”

All donations made will be collected online.

In the coming weeks, Skinner said, Catholic Charities will meet with each of the families and work toward meeting their needs. All of the donated funds will be distributed to the four families.

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