Worker killed when concrete slab falls at new ballpark site in St. Paul

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Early reports indicate a backhoe operator was killed early Tuesday when a concrete slab fell at the construction site of the new minor league baseball stadium in downtown St. Paul.

The laborer was involved in tearing down the old Gillette building at 310 East Fifth Street, near the St. Paul Farmers Market, KARE 11 reports. The man was identified by St. Paul Police as Johnny Valek, 61, from Plymouth, Minn.

There was a “partial building collapse,” trapping a worker inside what had once been a 650,000-square-foot factory, the Star Tribune reported.

The accident happened at about 8 a.m., FOX 9 reports.

The Pioneer Press spoke to Randy Valek, the veteran demolition worker's brother. "He said it was the toughest job he's been on," Randy Valek told the newspaper.

Mayor Chris Coleman said his heart goes out to the family of the worker. “Construction work can be a dangerous job, and so today I am thankful to all the men and women in construction trades who day in and day out work to make our community a better place,” the mayor said.

Rachel Contracting, based in St. Michael, Minn., was hired by Ryan Companies for demolition work on the Diamond/Gillette building, FOX notes. Demolition work began in July.

The new ballpark is to be home to the St. Paul Saints, who currently play at the aging Midway Stadium.

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