The world-famous architecture on the Las Vegas Strip didn’t appear out of nowhere; it was built one beam, one cable, one window at a time by skilled laborers and apprentices. When speed and deadlines are prioritized over worker safety, tragic and preventable fatalities occur.
This article memorializes five individuals whose lives were tragically cut short in the Las Vegas construction industry. It also serves as a gentle reminder that suing a negligent employer won’t bring back a loved one from the grave, but it can prevent similarly tragic deaths from occurring in the future.
David Rabun Jr., 30
“Do it with your daddy”
The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino
A veteran iron worker, David Rabun was pleased when his grown son decided to move to Las Vegas and take up the same profession as his father. “I said if you’re going to do this crap, do it with your daddy,” Rabun said. “Your daddy is famous here.”
Rabun’s son, David Rabun Jr., had been raised in Texas, apart from his father who lived and worked in Las Vegas. David, the father, remembers feeling delighted that his son decided to join him in Las Vegas.
David Jr., aged 30 at the time, found work at the Cosmopolitan. He told his father that the job was going too fast and was too crowded. He told his father that there had been times when there weren’t safe places for him to tie his safety harness.
Some time later, David Jr. was balancing on a steel beam inside of an elevator shaft when the beam came loose. For lack of a more secure tie-in, Rabum’s safety harness was hooked to the same beam on which he was standing. The temporary floor, which was supposed to be installed no more than two stories below, was missing or had never been installed.
David Jr. fell to his death in a preventable construction accident. His father reports that he can’t shake the image of his son’s final plummet, an unnecessary and tragic construction accident.
Angel Hernandez, 24, and Bobby Lee Tohannie, 40
No chance underneath 7,300-pound concrete forms
Vdara Tower at CityCenter
Angel and Bobby Lee were both carpenters working the swing shift. They were assigned to help remove two aluminum structures (concrete molds) inside an elevator shaft. The workers’ supervisors, running late, received an incomplete briefing from their morning counterparts. One of the supervisors, incorrectly assuming that the forms were secured inside the shaft, ordered that the form be disconnected from the crane which was holding them. Once disconnected from the crane, the 7300-pound weight of the two concrete forms fell on Angel and Bobby Lee who were still in the shaft.
A better handover, verification of worker presence, and less hurry would have prevented this fatal workplace accident.
Harold Billingsley, 46
Perfect storm of unfortunate events
Cesar Pelli Casino
Harold was working on Cesar Pelli on the day of his tragic and untimely death. The luxury casino was proceeding through the construction process at breakneck speed. Twenty cranes would have been simultaneously active on the construction site, with hundreds of trucks and thousands of tradesmen working around the clock. A casino and six nearby high-rise buildings were all under construction at the same time, all under the same management.
Harold’s family claimed that on the day of his death, he was 59 feet above the ground floor, walking on an uneven temporary deck. He was attempting to gather some extra bolts for his crew, when he slipped and fell.
Under better circumstances, he would have been caught in the decking. In a flagrant safety violation, however, this decking contained a 3-by-11 foot hole at the spot where Harold fell. Harold’s safety harness did not stop his fall because it was not attached at the time. A temporary floor was meant to have been installed at least two floors below any active construction sites. In another safety regulation violation, the temporary floor was missing.
In this tragic situation, three possible safeguards – the decking, the safety harness, and the temporary floor – were all missing or faulty. This accident was preventable and unnecessary.
Dustin Tarter, 39
“Enormous pride” in his profession until it killed him
Dustin (Doobie) Tarter was a crane oiler and one of 3,000-5,000 construction workers estimated to have been on the Mirage construction site at any given time during the construction process. A crane oiler is responsible for maintaining the giant cranes and making minor repairs as needed. In addition, the crane oiler guides the crane operator using hand signals when the operator can’t see the front load. In Dustin’s obituary, it was noted that he took “enormous pride” in his profession as an oiler for the Dielco Crane Co.
Dustin was crushed and killed while working on a moving crane on the Mirage construction site. He was caught between the counterweight system and the crane’s track. Employees reported unnatural pressure to complete the casino by January 1, traditionally one of the biggest gambling days of the year.
Dustin’s untimely death was the sixth on the Mirage project and the eleventh within 18 months on the Strip. After workers began to protest, and after the Las Vegas Sun published a damning exposé in 2008, the casino CEOs and project managers have cleaned up their act, and construction fatalities have dropped from their all-time highs.
Although the egregious safety violations illustrated in these tragic accounts may not be happening as often, construction accidents still happen regularly. Whether an accident results in a wrongful death, as in the above examples, or whether an accident results in an unnecessary injury, workers have rights to receive compensation for workplace negligence.
If you or a loved one has suffered a construction accident resulting in injury or even death, contact a trusted personal injury or wrongful death lawyer today. At Tingey Injury Law Firm, we offer a free initial consultation. We will listen to the details of your case and help you understand your options for receiving compensation under the law.
David Rabun Jr., Angel Hernandez, Bobby Lee Tohannie, Harold Billingsley, and Dustin Tarter are just five names from the dozens of Las Vegas construction workers who have suffered wrongful death at the sites of their Las Vegas construction work. Pursuing a personal injury case may help prevent such tragic deaths in the future, as big companies are held accountable for their inadequate safety practices.