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Officials investigate accidental death of construction worker, remembered as ‘wicked sharp,’ loyal to loved ones

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U.S. Labor Department investigators opened probes into four companies the day after a pair of workers fell nine stories from scaffolding at the in-progress University of Chicago cancer research center Thursday, killing one and severely injuring another.

The injured worker is expected to recover, according to a statement from his employer New Horizon Steel. Authorities and relatives identified the deceased worker as David O’Donnell, 27. His younger brother Patrick O’Donnell said their family was reeling in the wake of his death.

“We’re missing one of our own,” he said. “We just can’t believe he’s gone.”

Patrick, 26, remembered David as an “immensely funny” and clever person who enjoyed sports like golf and wrestling, camping and had an eclectic taste in music that ranged from the reggae act Rebelution to the rock band Tool.

David was living in Chicago at the time of his death, where he appreciated the proximity to his friends and where his work as a technical engineer often brought him to skydecks and “top-off parties” around the city, Patrick said.

“He loved the Chicago skyline,” Patrick said. “He would send me pictures of it whenever he had a great view from a building.”

Outside of work, David was a committed White Sox fan and good for a spontaneous dance move, his brother said: “he would bust out a dance move you’d never seen, make up his own groove — he had a passion for life.”

Mostly, Patrick said David’s loyalty was what made an impact on the people he loved.

“He always made it to important events for his family and friends,” he said. “That was the one thing about David. He always showed up.”

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) opened an investigation into New Horizon Steel, where the injured worker was employed, on Thursday.

An OSHA representative said Friday that the administration was also probing general contractor Turner Construction, O’Donnell’s employer High-Tech Stake-Out Inc and scaffolding erectors Adjustable Concrete Construction. The investigations will take up to six months.

Turner Construction said in a statement Friday it had halted work at the Hyde Park site and would offer workers grief counseling.

“This is an extremely sad day,” the statement said. “Our hearts are broken, and we extend our thoughts and prayers to (the workers’) family members, friends, and colleagues at this extremely difficult time.”

New Horizon Steel said in a statement that it would support the OSHA inquiry and do its own investigation “to ensure something like this never happens again.”

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