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1,200-pound metal plate pins USF worker

The man was flown to a hospital after the plate hit him and pinned his head against a pipe, trapping him in a construction hole on campus.

Published June 23, 2006

TAMPA - A construction worker at the University of South Florida was hospitalized after a 1,200-pound metal plate fell on him, pinning him in a sandy hole at the work site.

Police say William Abraham Fernandez, 30, was part of a crew putting in a hot-water pipeline on the university's campus at the northwestern corner of the Moffitt Cancer Hospital parking garage.

He was in fair condition Thursday evening at Tampa General Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Just before 11:30 a.m., authorities got a call that a man was trapped in a hole, university police spokesman Mike Klingebiel said.

Reports differed on whether Fernandez lost consciousness, but officials said the plate struck him and then pinned his head against the water pipe, which kept him from moving until workers and Tampa Fire Rescue crews were able to extract him.

He then was flown to the hospital, Klingebiel said.

Fire Rescue Lt. Wes Adwell said Fernandez complained of severe back pain when he was pulled from underneath the metal plate but was lucid enough to speak with rescue workers before he was flown to the hospital.

Fernandez asked rescue workers where his wallet was, Klingebiel said.

No one was working on the site Thursday after the accident. A blue tarp tent had been set up at one end of the hole, which was about 10 feet deep. Pipes were visible at the bottom. The metal plate had been lifted up. It was suspended by a chain from a piece of machinery.

Campus police say construction will not resume at the site until an investigation into the incident is completed.

The workers standing nearby declined to discuss what happened. They referred a reporter to the company spokesperson.

The contractor for the site is Harper Limbach LLC, according to company employees. A spokesman for the company did not return a phone message.

The project, which is supposed to bring hot water from a facility plant to the USF Health Complex, is one of many construction projects on campus.

"I can't remember the last (construction) accident we had," Klingebiel said.

He joked that the official bird of the campus should be a crane.

[Last modified June 23, 2006, 00:30:18]

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