BAYONNE, N.J. – A scaffold holding three painters at a Bayonne, N.J., industrial complex collapsed Saturday, killing two of them and seriously injuring the other.
The men were painting a fuel tank at the International-Matex Tank Terminals when the collapse occurred at about 11 a.m.
Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio told The Star-Ledger of Newark that the collapse occurred when a bolt securing a cable failed and the scaffold suddenly tipped vertically while the men worked about five stories above the ground. The tank was about 60 feet high, authorities said.
Henryk Wyetecha, 56, of Garfield, and Stanislaw Bryjak, 55, of Elmwood Park, were killed while Creslaw Saniewski, 56, of Passaic, was being treated at Jersey City Medical Center with injuries that were not considered life-threatening.
A preliminary investigation classified the incident as an industrial accident, DeFazio said, but the probe into the collapse was continuing Saturday night. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration was also investigating.
All three men were Polish immigrants who worked for the West Virginia Paint & Tank Co. of Clifton. They had been painting at the facility for about three weeks and were working Saturday on a recently built tank.
Family members told the Star-Ledger that Wietecha, a married father of three who lived in Garfield, came to the United States 19 years ago and had recently become an American citizen. His relatives said they did not learn about the accident until one of his co-workers notified them about an hour after it occurred.
Bryjak's family said he came to the U.S. 18 years ago and had spent many years painting and restoring tanks. They said his wife had planned to surprise him with a trip to Poland later this year so he could return to his homeland.
"We've been telling him to quit that job. I always knew it was dangerous" working on a scaffold, said Bryjak's son, Janusz, 26, of Clifton. "My father was a very strong. He was not a lazy guy. He doesn't want to quit."