Two construction workers die working in the heat

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SunlightBy TIM ROWDEN

Editor

Two area construction workers died in mid June after working in the heat.

Thomas F. “Tommy” Barnes, Jr., 55, of St. Charles, a 25-year member Iron Workers Local 396 died on a job site at Monsanto in Chesterfield on Tuesday, June 14.

Dale Heitman Jr., 49, a member of Sheet Metal Workers (SMART) Local 36, died working on the BJC campus renewal project in St. Louis on Wednesday, June 15. He had been a journeyman sheet metal worker since 1992.

Federal investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the worker deaths to determine whether they were work-related or the result of natural causes exacerbated by last week’s extreme heat.

The tragedy for the local Labor Movement was profound

“I’ve been around since 1973 and we’ve never seen anything like this,” said David Zimmermann, president and business manager of Local 36. “With these new buildings, once they close them in, with the guys working in there, it’s like working in a big oven.”

Local 396 Business Manager Tom McNeil said Barnes had been working inside on a lift and came down to go outside for some fresh air when he apparently collapsed. Fellow workers found him a short time later.

Bommarito-3x3-color“They were finishing the greenhouse that he was working on. He came down off his lift, it was probably pretty hot inside then, and he went outside to get some air. Nobody had seen him in a while and they went outside and found him. A lot of it is probably attributable to being inside. You’ve got a lot of stale air, a lot of dead air in there. When you’re outside, you have a breeze. Even if the sun is out, the air is moving.”

A funeral service for Barnes was held Monday at Baue Funeral Home in Cave Springs. He is survived by his wife Micah Barnes, father Thomas Finley Barnes, Sr., son Thomas Finley Barnes III, sister Barbara (Kenneth) Moore, and brother James (Monica) Barnes, in addition to nieces and nephews and many other extended family members and friends.

The family requested memorials’ to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or Conservation Foundation of Missouri Charitable Trust.

For Dale Heitman, Jr., a memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 25 at the Braun Funeral Home, 3701 Falling Springs Road, Cahokia, IL, after a gathering of family and friends, scheduled for 9 a.m. at the funeral home.

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