Loved ones mourned the loss of a family man and veteran construction worker Tuesday after Vicente Santoyo, 47, was killed in an accident on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway in Des Plaines.
“It's very sad. I'm in construction too,” said family friend Domingo Ramirez, who stopped by Santoyo's home in Berwyn to offer condolences. “I tell my daughters if I don't come home one day… I said respect your parents because I might not come home one day.”
Santoyo attended St. Anthony’s church in Cicero, where parishioners said he was a father figure to many in the community.
“As a father, he brought the family together as one. Always there for them,” said Guillermo Duarte. “He was a role model here at St. Anthony and just like a father for a lot of people. Tragic accident.”
Santoyo was a 25-year veteran of construction, specializing in demolition work and “a dedicated member of the union,” according to Tony Cantone of Chicago Laborers Local 225.
Santoyo was on a small lift vehicle as the crew was using two cranes to move steel across the roadway when the 187-foot beam shifted and fell from its rigging, according to the Des Plaines Police Department. He was taken to Lutheran General Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Three other workers suffered minor injuries, were taken to area hospitals, treated and released.
“As soon as I heard the bang I knew something was wrong,” said Mark Keifer, a former construction worker who lives close to the site and heard the crash. “It’s pretty dangerous, especially ‘cause those guys were up in a cherry picker. And basically once that thing starts coming down, they have nowhere to go. So they just gotta brace for the impact and hope for best."
OSHA has opened an investigation with Santoyo’s employer, the Omega Demolition Corp. of Elgin, and Judlau Contracting Inc. of New York, the general contractor on the site.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the worker,” said OSHA in a statement. “OSHA wishes to express to this worker’s family and friends and those of the three injured these types of incidents are preventable if OSHA standards are followed.”
The exact cause of the accident is still unknown.
“Our prayers and sympathies are extended to all families and loved ones of those affected,” Illinois Tollway Executive Director Greg Bedalov said in a statement. “In particular, our thoughts are with the family of the worker who lost his life in this accident. We will immediately begin our work with local authorities and OSHA to learn the causes of this accident.”