A subcontractor who worked job sites for Hultgren Construction says the contractor cut corners, ignored safety procedures and even broke the law.
He knew the construction worker killed in the collapse and is coming forward with even more shocking news about what was happening in the former Copper Lounge building just two days before it went down.
This 20-year construction veteran asked us to conceal his identity because he is afraid of losing his job with a company who works on many different projects.
When the Copper Lounge building went down on Friday, this subcontractor said he could have been killed in the collapse.
“Yeah, I went home and I hugged my family that night. I was just thankful I wasn’t in the building and then at 6 o’clock I found out he’d lost his life and it’s hard to lose a friend, especially a work friend that you see daily,” the subcontractor said.
He’d just seen Ethan McMahon on Wednesday after having lunch near the Copper Lounge Building.
“And I went right next door and I was just going to talk to Ethan for a little bit and he was like yeah, we got the wall out and everything. And I stepped inside and the support, because of how far because the building’s 90 feet long, they had that framing coming out maybe 20 feet, so there’s still 70 feet unsupported and even the support they and up was thrown together 2x 4s,” he said.
He says a picture posted on Nov. 30 on Hultgren Construction’s Facebook page, which disappeared after the collapse, doesn’t tell the whole story. While it shows the Skelly’s wall removed, much more progress had been made when he saw it.
“So in the picture, it’s not a finished product. They took the other part of the wall out. I could only take ten steps inside the building and something told me you just shouldn’t be in there. I just backed out and I didn’t go back,” he said.
While it made him uneasy, he tells us it didn’t surprise him because he’d been called into fix problems on Hultgren’s job sites in the past.
“They would go through; they would cut through pipes that were in their way, not knowing what was in the pipe, not knowing where the pipe led to,” the subcontractor said.
He’d even witnessed a near miss on another job.
“I saw an incident where they setup scaffolding on a stage and they didn’t have any support under the scaffolding or the scaffolding wheels and the scaffolding broke through the stage, nearly injuring people on the job and they just shrug it off like it’s another day in the construction field,” he said.
He takes issue with what he heard Aaron Hultgren say on his Facebook video obtained by KELOLAND News, when Hultgren spoke to a crowd at The Bakery in October about his construction work.
“Quite frankly the school of hard knocks–every single project we do, I learn something. You’re never going to have it all figured out and just when you do you get slapped in the face with a new fun challenge,” Aaron Hultgren said in an Oct. 14 Facebook video.
“He made a comment that the construction field is part of the hard knocks. Well that’s not even true and when you go into the construction field with that kind of mentality; you’re going to get people hurt. The construction field should be nothing but safety and looking after your guys,” the subcontractor said.
He says he witnessed occasions over the last couple of years when enough safety equipment wasn’t available for workers, or Hultgren’s crew had to borrow tools from subcontractors, or people who were not licensed, operated heavy machinery. But he defends the construction workers, saying they were just following orders.
“This should have never happened. The building collapse should have never happened. If he would have taken the proper steps and safety procedures, this would have all been prevented.”
Hultgren’s attorney tells KELOLAND News:
“Under the circumstances of this accident neither Aaron Hultgren, nor Hultgren Construction, is in a position to comment. The entire team is grieving from the tragic death of coworker and friend Ethan McMahon and suffering of McMahon family, as well as the suffering of Emily Fodness and the Fodness family. Aaron Hultgren and Hultgren Construction are fully cooperating with various phases of the investigations and are not in a position to comment publicly or defend themselves in media,” Mark O’Leary, Hultgren Attorney
KEOLAND News has learned that there will be a meeting about the building with involved parties on Dec. 12, including Hultgren Construction, the City, the building’s owner Legacy Development and family members of those injured and killed.