Asbestos worker dies from fall

Investigations are continuing in the Hillsborough County courthouse tragedy.

By Times Staff Writer
Published August 26, 2005

TAMPA - A 28-year-old man removing asbestos from the old Hillsborough County courthouse in downtown Tampa fell from the third floor Thursday morning, landing on his head and later dying at Tampa General Hospital.

Roberto Velazco Lopez, a worker for Cross Environmental Services, was in the third-floor ceiling at 9:23 a.m. when he stepped on an area that did not support his weight, said Tampa police spokesman Joe Durkin.

Lopez of Tampa fell through the ceiling to the floor 18 feet below.

Tampa Fire Rescue workers rushed him from the courthouse, 419 Pierce St., to Tampa General Hospital, where he died, Durkin said.

Lopez's brother, also a Cross Environmental worker, was in the courthouse when Lopez fell, according to Durkin. Tampa police did not release the brother's name.

Lopez's death appears to have been accidental, but Tampa police and the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office have not completed their investigation, Durkin said.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration also was at the courthouse Thursday morning, and is conducting a separate investigation.

Before entering the courthouse, which is being renovated, police and firefighters put on thick suits and masks to protect themselves from the asbestos inside.