Maryland Investigators Fine Contractor in Fatal Westfield Montgomery Mall Garage Collapse

Maryland state investigators have issued fines and citations against the contractor involved in a deadly accident last year at the Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, according to documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act by the News4 I-Team.

Whiting-Turner, a Baltimore-based company working on a major expansion of the mall, faces at least $11,000 in penalties and state violations for maintaining unsafe working conditions.   The fines and citations were issued by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

The News4 I-Team has learned Whiting-Turner was also cited for safety violations by Montgomery County safety inspectors and accused by federal officials, with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, for failing to follow a national work safety standard.

One construction worker was killed and another badly injured when a 42,800-pound concrete slab fell inside a mall garage in May 2013. The accident occurred amid a renovation project, which includes the construction of a theater complex, along the mall’s west side.   

The citations issued by Maryland state investigators said Whiting-Turner failed to ensure the concrete slab was properly “cribbed, blocked or otherwise secured” during the project.  They also cited the company for failure to use proper beams in apparatus used to raise the concrete slab.

Whiting-Turner declined multiple requests for comment.  An official with the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation said the company is challenging the citations and fines. A meeting between the company and state officials -- to discuss the citations -- is scheduled for Feb. 5.

Montgomery County’s Department of Permitting Services has also issued formal violations – and $2,000 in fines – against Whiting-Turner because of the accident. Copies of agency records obtained by the News4 I-Team show county investigators cited Whiting-Turner for “failing to keep a construction or demolition site free from an unsafe condition.”  

A spokeswoman told the News4 I-Team Whiting-Turner has paid the $2,000 in fines issued by Montgomery County.

A separate federal review, also obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, was completed by the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.  That review said Whiting-Turner “did not comply” with a federal safety standard for handling the concrete slab.

Carole Ann Wills, the daughter the employee killed in the collapse, would not comment on the government investigations.  But Wills discussed her father, Carroll Wills, in an interview with the News4 I-Team.  Wills said, “He passed away doing something I know he loved.”

Work continues on the theater project at Westfield Montgomery Mall.  The accident delayed completion of the complex, according to a spokeswoman for Westfield, the mall’s owner.   The project is expected to be completed by this autumn.

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