With less than three months to go before Little Caesars Arena opens to the public, tragedy struck Wednesday at the construction site as a 46-year-old electrician plunged 75 feet from a catwalk to his death in what police say was a suicide.
The website of International Brotherhood of Electricians Local 58 identified the man as Michael Morrison. He was pronounced dead at Detroit Receiving Hospital, where he was taken after the incident.
According to authorities, Morrison went into cardiac arrest.
“Based on our investigation, he climbed on that scaffolding with the intent of committing suicide,” said Michael Woody, a Detroit Police Department spokesman.
Woody said the police interviews with other workers and witnesses indicate the worker’s death was a suicide.
A preliminary investigation at the site indicated the fatality wasn’t due to unsafe working conditions, according to statement by the chief executive officer of Barton Malow Co. which is the general contractor overseeing construction.
“After a review of the facts surrounding today’s tragic event, we have reached a preliminary conclusion that this event was not the result of a construction-related accident,” Ryan Maibach, Barton Malow CEO, said in a written statement.. “Additional information may become available as the Detroit Police Department concludes their investigation.”
His death, the first fatality at the 12-acre construction site, stunned members of Local 58, of which Morrison was a member.
Michael Richard, the local’s business manager, said Morrison had worked at the site for eight months.
“ ‘What if’s’ and ‘should have’s’ will not bring this brother back home today,” read a statement on the union’s website. “His family is without a father, husband, provider and friend. Our hearts break for them. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.”
The fall was called in at 8:03 a.m., said Dave Fornell, deputy commissioner of the Detroit Fire Department.
When EMS personnel arrived, they performed CPR on Morrison and transported him to Detroit Receiving.
Richard said he could not release any details on the incident.
In a statement, Ilitch Holdings, which is building the arena, expressed regret over the incident.
“Our thoughts, condolences and prayers go out to the family, friends and co-workers affected by this tragedy,” said Doug Kuiper, vice president of corporate communications for the Ilitch company. “We lost a member of our crew today, and it is an extremely sad and difficult time for our entire organization and for the many dedicated men and women building this project.
“The safety and security of everyone on our job sites remains our highest priority, and more information will be shared as it becomes available throughout the investigation,” Kuiper said.
Little Caesars Arena opens Sept. 12 with a Kid Rock concert.
In May, construction officials said an average of 1,400 workers were on site daily to get the massive sports and entertainment arena ready for its debut this fall.
In March alone, construction crews worked more than 2 million hours at the site.
Of the 70 companies working on the arena project, 40 of them are Detroit-based, construction officials said at the time.
Work at the 12-acre site just north of downtown began in the fall of 2014.
According to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, inspections of employers at the construction site have turned up few problems.
State records show citations were issued against two companies involved in the project, both in August 2016.
Quality Re-Steel was cited for “fall protection” and fined $4,200 after reporting an employee was struck by a piece of rubber concrete system pipe from 25 feet above.
Tooles Contracting Group was cited for leaving materials unsecured and fined $2,800.
In addition, the companies were cited for having inadequate accident prevention programs. Both appealed their citations from MIOSHA.
The arena complex is anchored by a 20,000-plus seat venue that will be the home of the Red Wings, and most likely the Pistons, as well as host up to 75 concerts and other events each year.
The arena is partially encircled by a 61,000-square-foot, glass-roofed walking area called The Via. It will link the arena with new buildings that will house offices, stores, restaurants and bars.
In addition, there are outdoor areas such as the Chevrolet Plaza, which will have a jumbo screen and host community events and concerts, and another area called Festival Streets.
The cost of the arena is $862.9 million.
In July 2002, a painter died after falling 150 feet during work on the steel trusses near the roof of Ford Field.
Gjon Gojcaj, 42, of Macomb Township, had worked on the site for only a month when a hydraulic crane on which he was standing tipped over, sending him into a concrete section of the stadium that would eventually house the first tier of seats.
He worked for Thomarios Painting Co. of Akron, Ohio.