Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Teenager killed by hot asphalt

15- year-old buried working at job site

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STONY MOUNTAIN -- A 15-year-old boy working construction died after he was buried in hot asphalt at a job site late Friday morning.

And the provincial government is investigating to see why a youth under 16 was working in construction when Manitoba labour laws make it illegal.



Video available here VIDEO: Man tries to save buried teen

Stonewall RCMP say the teen was working for a paving company doing road repairs at the time. Still early in the investigation, it appears he was helping unload a truck when he was buried beneath a large amount of asphalt.

Stony Mountain resident Richard Hill said he was in his driveway loading up his truck "when I heard screaming 'Help, help.'

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"I ran through the backyard and saw one guy running with a shovel saying 'he's buried.' I looked around for a shovel and ran over and began shovelling," he described.

"We got down to his hair... there was just no movement. No movement at all.

"It was so hot my boots were burning because of the asphalt and I burned my hand. It's burning a bit, but it's nothing major."

A dump truck remained parked at the site of the accident Friday afternoon, with a load of asphalt behind it. Two shovels rested beside the pile.

The pair of blue jeans Hill was wearing was tossed outside on his porch, black asphalt on the end of the pant legs. Nearby stood a pair of cowboy boots with asphalt over the feet.

The RCMP did not release the teen's name, but community members identified him as Andrew James.

Provincial labour rules suggest the 15-year-old should not have been on the job. A spokesman said, generally speaking, paving jobs are considered in the construction category and youth under the age of 16 are not allowed to work on a construction site.

"Individuals of this age would not be issued a permit for that work," he stated.

A relative said the boy's family is not commenting on the tragedy at this time.

Stony Mountain resident Maureen Dixon hired Andrew several times to cut her lawn.

"He does a lot of cutting of grass around here," Dixon said.

"He was so friendly and helpful -- he would give you his right arm, he was so helpful. This is just awful."

Katie Coburn, a friend of James' older sister, said Andrew "was a good kid.

"He was a normal guy and he was a hard worker. He would cut grass and do other jobs around here. He worked throughout the year. That kid works hard.

"He was just the average teenager."

Coburn said Andrew had just graduated from Grade 9 at Stonewall Collegiate Institute and was preparing to enter Grade 10.

She said it was the second summer Andrew was working for Interlake Asphalt Paving.

An owner or spokesperson for Interlake -- the name stamped on the back of the dump truck at the scene of the tragedy -- could not be reached for comment.

A local official in the asphalt industry said asphalt in a truck would be kept at a temperature around 165 C to ensure it stayed liquified.

RCMP and officials with the province's Workplace Safety and Health are investigating.

Manitoba's employment standards guidelines read: "People under 16 years of age are prohibited from working on construction sites, drilling or servicing rigs, scaffolds or swing stages, in industrial or manufacturing processes and pruning, repairing, maintaining or removing trees."

According to provincial employment standards laws, a company found in violation could be fined a maximum of $25,000.

A worker under the age of 16 has to get a permit," said the spokesman. "They can work in many jobs, but they are prohibited from working in some jobs by law, and construction is one of them."

He added the investigation into the boy's death "will not be concluded in a hurry."

Stony Mountain/Rockwood fire chief Wallace Drysdale said emergency crews arrived at the former Manitoba Hydro substation at 66 Vincent Rd., minutes after being notified of the accident, at around 10:55 a.m.

"There was a young man buried completely up to his hair in hot asphalt," he said.

Drysdale said the asphalt company had been dumping a trailer full of asphalt into a massive pile to use for various projects around town.

"He'd been standing behind the truck, from what we gather, and the load dumped on him. It knocked him over," he said of the victim.

"Some tried to dig by hand too, so they were burning their hands trying to do it."

Drysdale said crews knew the victim was dead immediately after arriving, and had to dig to extricate his body.

"In a case like this, when you're buried that deep, whether it's asphalt or not, you're usually deceased," he said, adding it's impossible to breath with so much pressure.

"It's horrible," he said. "Especially this guy. He was pretty young."

Aside from Hill, another asphalt worker suffered burns to his hand while trying to dig the boy out.

Manitoba Hydro spokesman Jim Peters said the former lot where the accident occurred is no longer in use, but the property is still owned by Hydro. He said the construction company did not seek approval before dumping the asphalt.

The situation of young employees is cause for concern for the Manitoba Federation of Labour.

"We do know that young people are perhaps the most vulnerable in the workplace, because they simply don't have the experience that evolves from participating in a workplace culture," said spokesman John Doyle.

"You learn from older, more experienced workers about the safe way to do things. It speaks to the need for new workers to be given a detailed safety training when they're hired, particularly young workers, who more often than not are in the first paid employment situation."

lindsey.wiebe@freepress.mb.ca

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

VIDEO

Witness describes attempts to save teen

buried in asphalt

winnipegfreepress.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 26, 2008 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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