Thursday, 18 June 2009

R.I.P. Tyler Cotter

The employee of Award Window Cleaning Services, a Grand Rapids-based company, died at Saint Mary's Health Care, Grand Rapids Police Capt. Jeff Hertel said. Family members identified the victim as Tyler A. Cotter, 21, of Grand Rapids. A homemade memorial was set up outside the GRAM on Wednesday night. Cotter's family said the light of Tyler's life was his baby daughter, Peyton, born just a month ago. They described Cotter as very involved, going to prenatal checkups with his girlfriend Samantha Goldner, 18. "He wanted to be the best dad in the world," said his mother, Judy Cotter.
Hertel said initial findings point to a problem with the man's harness. "The victim came down slightly and then fell all the way," Hertel said. "There is no way right now to know if the harness hit him as he came down." Cotter was working with a partner, who was not injured. The accident is the second involving Award Window Cleaning Services employees in the past 26 months. In April 2007, two workers fell about 90 feet outside the Van Andel Arena when a basket-type lift machine holding them tipped and crashed to the pavement. Both were hospitalized with nonlife-threatening injuries. Six months after the incident, MIOSHA found four safety citations stemming from the accident, said Adrian Rocskay, acting director of MIOSHA's general industry safety and health division.
Three of the citations were classified as "serious" and carried a $700 fine each. They were for failure to provide training on safe use of an aerial lift; failure to test aerial lift controls each day before use; and exceeding the maximum height for an aerial lift. The fourth citation, which didn't carry a fine, was for failure to properly record an injury or illness for MIOSHA and internal record-keeping purposes. The investigation into Wednesday's death likely will take several weeks. Company officials did not comment.
Matt Dahlman, one of the two workers injured during the 2007 fall, said Wednesday that the company takes "every safety precaution they can." He declined to comment further. Kristin Schrewe and her husband, Todd, both 32, witnessed Wednesday's fall near their car on Ottawa Avenue NW while getting ready to enter the museum. The Illinois couple and their 2-year-old son are here on vacation. They said they heard a commotion and saw the yellow scaffolding the man was attached to collapse, and the worker fall to the ground. The man landed on his head and was unresponsive.
"He didn't move or scream or flail his arms or anything as he came down," said Kristin Schrewe, who called 911. Her husband ran to check the man's pulse, which Todd Schrewe said was about 50 beats per minute. A nurse who was nearby cleared an airway because the victim was choking, he added. "All I heard was a guy yell, and I see the scaffolding come out of the sky. It was all right in front of us," Todd Schrewe said. The two men had been on the job for a few hours prior to the incident, Hertel said. They were starting a descent down the side of the building to begin cleaning another series of windows when the incident occurred. Funeral arrangements were pending.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or MIOSHA, is investigating what went wrong when a 21-year-old window washer died after falling about 45 feet from the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Tyler Cotter graduated from Creston High School. He had a girlfriend and 1-month-old daughter. The incident occurred at around 3 p.m. Cotter was working for Award Window Cleaning Services, Inc. He was working with a partner, who was not injured. Although MIOSHA will handle the official investigation, a former Award Window Cleaning employee has a theory. "There was not enough weight on the rig and when he went off the building, it just came down on top of him," he said.

There were four citations against Award Window Cleaning at their last inspection in 2007:

* Not providing employee training on the safe use of an aerial lift device.
* Lift controls were not tested each day before use.
* Exceeding the design / rated capacity for the given height of a vehicle
* Company did not properly record injury numbers and illness numbers on annual log

In 2007 while working at Van Andel Arena, a worker over-extended the arm of an aerial lift device, causing two workers to be injured. The citations were issued as a result of that accident, but no one died. "It's pretty traumatic," said Todd Schrewe, who witnessed Cotter's fall. "I mean, you're out here to have a good time, and he's out here to do a job and something tragic like this happens. My wife and I are a little unsettled about it. "He's a young guy and he deserves better than this." Award Winning Cleaning has not commented.

Tyler Cotter never missed a doctor's appointment when his girlfriend, Samantha Goldner, was pregnant. Cotter - known as "T-Bone" to his family, "Cooter" to co-workers and "Baby" to Goldner - died Wednesday after falling about 40 feet while cleaning windows at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. The 21-year-old was remembered Wednesday evening by family and friends as a shy, loving person who enjoyed tending to his daughter, going to movies and eating at drive-through restaurant Sonic.
In the hospital during Goldner's labor, he was there to offer back rubs and even cut his daughter's umbilical cord, albeit with a shaky hand. When Peyton Cotter was born last month and he first cradled her in his arms, Tyler Cotter shed tears of joy. He was a devoted father, Goldner said. "As soon as he got out of work, he went straight to her," she said. "He was almost greedy with her. He just always wanted to hold her."
Witnesses said they saw scaffolding give way before Cotter fell. Initial reports indicated the West Side resident, an employee of Award Window Cleaning Services, might have had problems with his harness, Police Capt. Jeff Hertel said. "The victim came down slightly and then fell all the way," Hertel said. "There is no way right now to know if the harness hit him as he came down."
Cotter was taken to Saint Mary's Health Care, where he died, Hertel said. The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the accident and expects to determine a cause in several weeks. Two Award Window Cleaning employees were injured in 2007 outside Van Andel Arena when their bucket lift tipped and they fell 90 feet to the pavement. The company was fined $2,100 for violations regarding the lift. Calls to the company's owner were not returned.
The Creston High graduate worked as a window cleaner to support his daughter and girlfriend, braving heights while enjoying waves from children inside buildings and the occasional offering of free food from office workers. He was interested in computers and was looking into pursuing a job in technology after he and Goldner settled down. "He treated me so good. He really spoiled me," said Goldner, 18, who celebrated her two-year anniversary with Cotter on June 5. "I don't know how I got such a perfect person. They say nobody's perfect, but he was." Cotter's stepbrother, Kris Krzykwa, remembered him as truthful and compassionate. "You could ask him any question you want and he'd give you an honest answer," said Krzykwa, 28. "But he'd still give you the shirt off his back."
By caring for his infant daughter, Cotter showed maturity beyond his years, his mother, Judy Cotter said. "He wanted to be the best dad in the world," she said. Cotter also is survived by his father, Mark Cotter, sister Braylyn and stepfather Jeff Krzykwa. Funeral arrangements were pending.

The 21-year-old man was on the roof of the Grand Rapids Art Museum Wednesday afternoon making a descent when his rig gave way. Witnesses say the victim fell face first and the impact of his body hitting the sidewalk could be heard from across the street. "There was like a boom! Like a boom - that was his body," says Orlando de la Rosa who witnessed the fall. "His partner yelled his name out as he came down... his partner was pretty shook up," says Todd Shrewe. Shrewe added the man may have been struck by equipment because he seemed unconscious before he hit the ground. Award Window Cleaning Services owner, Mark Reinhart, said the victim was employed with him for three years. All of the staff consider themselves family, and are grieving a well-liked and loved person. Award Window Cleaning Services specializes in high rise window cleaning they have contracts with DeVos Place, Van Andel Arena and Spectrum Health.

Statement/Mark Reinhart/Award Window Cleaning: It is with a very painful sadness that I make this statement. Today I/we mourn the loss of our friend and loved one Tyler Cotter. Tyler was like a son to me & was very much a part of our family here. Tyler was more to us than just an employee, he was like a brother to our staff, he loved his girlfriend Samantha like a wife, he was a loving father to his new born child Payton, loved his family, and we all know he loved us and his work here. He was always looking out for others.
We here are all better people for knowing Tyler. He will be missed. God bless his family & we pray for them both. One of our employees has written this on behalf of our staff.

“The parents must be proud of their son. They could not have asked for a nicer young man. I know it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with this unfortunate outcome. I could not feel more proud if he were my own son. There was not one day we worked with him that he did not impress us with his character and the way he carried himself.

We are setting up a memorial fund for Tyler’s family. We are asking our customers, friends, & fellow window cleaners to if at all possible send donations to the family. Please make checks out to Tyler Cotter Memorial Fund & send them to P.O. Box 3504 Grand Rapids MI 49501


Mark S. Reinhart
Award Window Cleaning Services


Window washer falls six-stories; lives to talk about it: It is an odd feeling knowing by any reasonable measure you should not be alive, but Alex Clay, 21, has spent the past day with little else on his mind. "I can't believe I'm actually here," he says. The window washer was crawling over the ledge at the top of Eau Claire's U.S. Bank Building Monday afternoon, transferring his weight, when he noticed his rigging wasn't properly connected. He tightened his grip on a metal bar connected to his window cleaning apparatus. He can't say how long he held on with his feet dangling below him, but it felt like a long time. "I held on as long as I could, but you get to the point where you're maxing out your body," he said. "You get to the point where I can't even support my life anymore. I have to let go."
Clay thought his safety rope would catch him, for reasons still unknown, it didn't. He fell six stories, hitting a metal awning above a doorway before hitting the sidewalk. A paramedic would later tell him that awning "'could have been what saved my life." "He was very, very fortunate," says Dr. Brad Grewe, a trauma surgeon at Luther Midelfort hospital in Eau Claire. Grewe wonders if a rope or some other may have helped slow Clay's descent. "But to fall six floors - we don't even have many six story buildings in Eau Claire." Clay suffered scrapes, bruises and a broken foot, but should be out of the hospital by Thursday. "Everyone's just telling me it's a miracle," he says.

An American window cleaner who fell from the outside of a building six floors up has survived the "surreal" tumble with minor injuries. Alex Clay, of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, told the BBC he was forced to hold on with bare hands after colleagues had trouble connecting his harness. But as they tried to repair the line Mr Clay said he became overcome with tiredness and was forced to let go. A safety line failed, but his fall was broken before he hit the pavement. An overhanging roof on the first floor broke his fall, and he hit the cement roof before he bounced onto the pavement.
"It doesn't make much sense, but it was very slow - it was very very dream like," Mr Clay told the BBC World Service. "It all just felt very surreal. It was very, very dream-like." The problem started when Mr Clay noticed his harness was not properly connected to the cleaning rig. His partner and another window cleaner tried to reconnect the harness correctly, but while they were doing it Mr Clay, who was holding on with his bare hands, said he started to slip. "I was so tired, I started slipping and my hands were sweaty and my arms were sweaty," he explained.
"[My co-workers] tried to pull me up but I knew that they weren't going to be able to, I just knew so I had to make a really hard decision, I just had to drop and see what happened with the safety line that was connected to my back." And drop he did.
Mr Clay said he had expected his safety line to engage shortly afterwards, but nothing happened. It was only then that he began to fear for his life. "I started thinking about my family and my friends, and just thought to myself: well, is this going to be the end? And if it's not, what kind of state am I going to be in for the rest of my life?" Almost unbelievably, Mr Clay's only injuries are a shattered bone in his left foot and a cut on his leg. The 21-year-old window cleaner had only been in the job for four months before the accident. But despite his relative health, his prospects for a swift return to window cleaning appear bleak, he says: his mother is unlikely to let him go back to his high flying job. Listen here.

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