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Excavator mishap catches attention of passers-by downtown

March 09, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - No injuries were reported when a mishap took place as a demolition crew continued to tear down the building that once held a Hagerstown landmark on West Washington Street, but a listing piece of machinery drew attention from those walking by the site Monday.

"It probably ain't supposed to be like that," said Jim Thompson, 49. The postal employee was on an early lunch break watching the construction workers deal with the excavator that had partially plunged through the concrete floor on which it stood.

Last week, workers began tearing down the building that held the old McCrory's variety store. Workers are clearing the site that eventually will hold a public park near the University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center, which is scheduled to open next January.

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The piece of equipment, called an excavator, has two treads - similar to those on a military tank - an operator's booth and a hinged arm with a metal claw at the end. Fully extended, the excavator can remove debris from the top of a two-story building.

On Monday morning, the excavator was facing west a few feet away from the street and was at street level. One tread pointed awkwardly upward, while the other tread that had punched through the floor was concealed beneath the excavator.

While the piece of equipment sat at street level, a few feet behind it, a portion of the basement could be seen from the sidewalk.

A man who said he was the site foreman and asked that his name not be published, said a worker was operating the piece of equipment when part of the concrete floor gave way.

The foreman said the excavator came to rest on a concrete wall below ground level. In the meantime, a mound of dirt was packed around the vehicle to support it. The foreman said workers will return today to remove the excavator with a similar piece of equipment.

A phone call placed to Dirt Express, of Glen Burnie, Md., the company performing the demolition, was not returned.

According to Washington County Emergency Services dispatch records, no 911 calls were received from the site, and no ambulances were sent to the accident.

Jerome Shird, who was walking along the sidewalk adjacent to the construction zone, said he has worked in construction and sympathized with the workers.

"It's dangerous. I used to do construction, and I think it was a lucky person who was in there if they didn't get hurt," said Shird, 55, of Hagerstown.

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