Crane operator dies on church project

A crane operator was fatally injured at the site of the St. Paul Hmong Alliance Church in Maplewood Monday.

Maplewood police and fire responders were called to the 1770 McMenemy St. site where the church is undergoing a major expansion just after noon Oct. 21. According to deputy police chief Dave Kvam, they found a crane tipped over onto its side and its operator badly injured.

Emergency responders provided medical care to the crane operator as they worked to free him from the cab. Once extricated, the man was transported to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, where the victim was pronounced dead.

The crane operator has been identified as 34-year-old Cory Lewellin of Ogilvie, Minn.

The $7.1 million church project involves constructing a multipurpose gym, a new 1,400-seat worship space, a larger lobby area and offices and classrooms around three sides of the existing 1987 chapel.

Plans for the project -- as well as safety instructions for church members and visitors -- are posted prominently on the church's website.

Work on the project began last spring and is slated to continue through 2014.

The crane is owned by Truck Crane Service of Eagan. Truck Crane Service, on its website, states it was established in 1940 as one of the nation's first-ever crane rental businesses. It currently fields a variety of cranes and equipment which can be rented or operated by its own employees or operators from a network of contractors.

Inspectors from the Minnesota Occupational Health and Safety Administration -- Minnesota operates its own OSHA program through the state Department of Labor and Industry -- are investigating the equipment and the scene.

Kvam said the Maplewood department could not speculate on the cause of the fatality, adding that the MNOSHA investigation may be lengthy.


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