A wrongful death lawsuit was filed Monday by the widow of a construction worker who died after being trapped for 17 hours in the Miami Dade College garage collapse.
“He was everything to me at home, everything,” Migdalia Lopez said in Spanish of her late husband, Samuel Perez.
Four construction workers were killed in the Oct. 10 collapse of part of the five-story garage that was being built on Miami Dade College’s west campus in Doral.
Attorney Ervin Gonzalez said that Perez, a subcontractor involved in the cement work, “was in his truck and the entire garage collapsed upon him like a house of cards.”
Rescuers couldn’t get the 53-year-old out because his legs were trapped, and they had to amputate both of them to remove him from the truck, Gonzalez said.
“Shortly after that he flat-lined about three times at the scene, was taken to Ryder Trauma Center where he flat-lined several other times, and then he died,” Gonzalez said at a press conference in Coral Gables.
The complaint, filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, seeks damages against Ajax Building Corp. and four subcontractors.
“Our initial investigation has established that one of the main columns in this prefabbed garage wasn’t properly cemented, properly routed in place,” Gonzalez said. “And when the initial crane caused the first column to move, they repaired that column and they repaired the crane, but they didn’t inspect the other columns that had been shifted due to the blow.”
The result was the collapse when work resumed, Gonzalez said.
Ajax declined to comment on the lawsuit in a statement Monday.
"While not appropriate to comment on ongoing litigation, Ajax is committed to a full investigation of the tragedy and continues to work closely with investigators to find the cause of the accident,” Ajax spokesperson Alia Faraj said in a written statement. “To the fullest extent possible, we are assisting OSHA in their investigation. Particularly as we enter the holiday season, our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and loved ones of those affected by this tragedy."
The families of victims Jose Calderon and Robert Budhoo have also filed two suits following the collapse.
The Lopez suit’s allegations include “gross negligence, breach of duty and a failure to comply with even the minimal standards required to ensure site safety, construction means and methods, inspection, and follow-up, including rushing the operation to meet a deadline,” said a written statement on Monday.
“The goal of this lawsuit is that the death of Mr. Perez not be in vain, and that we can make a difference in our community, and improve construction standards and construction safety for all construction workers, so that this never, ever happens again,” Gonzalez said at the press conference.
He described Perez as a hard-working family man who spent over 20 years in construction. He was very complex, very smart and passionate, his stepson Jimmy Lopez said.
The 23-year-old said his stepfather’s death has turned their world upside-down.
“Nothing’s ever going to be the same. It’s the worst thing that could happen to us,” he said.
Perez also had two children in Cuba, one of whom lives in New York now, Lopez said.
“I’m very, very angry about the whole thing. Of course, I’m also hurt,” he told reporters. “I mean, just the way that he died. He had to suffer for so long. I don’t know, it’s just I don’t understand why. It shouldn’t have been like that. It’s not fair.”