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‘I can't believe I'm alive': Scaffolding crushes car with man inside



EAST LIBERTY, Pa. - Scaffolding at a hotel construction site in East Liberty collapsed on a parked car Wednesday injuring two workers who were two stories up, authorities said.

Police described the workers' injuries as non-life-threatening. They were taken to UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland for treatment.

Max Donatien, 52, of Penn Hills, said he had just parked and was getting ready to exit the car when he heard the scaffolding fall.

“I just parked the car and I heard somebody cry. When somebody cried, I moved,” Donatien told Channel 11’s Rick Earle.

He told Earle that he laid flat on his front seat, likely sparing him from injury.

“I slid on the front seat of the car and the scaffolding came 'boom' on the car,” Donatien said. “God saved me today.”

A second car, which was moving, was hit by the scaffolding as well. The driver was not injured.

“I just said to people, ‘Get me out,’” Donatien said. “They opened the door and got me out.”

Police said the workers were on a sky lift, a piece of heavy equipment that, similar to scaffolding, allows construction crews to work on a structure's exterior from an elevated platform.

“We’re very fortunate there weren’t more severe injuries out of this incident,” Pittsburgh police Cmdr. Tim O’Connor said.

The building, bounded by Kirkwood Street, North Highland Avenue and Broad Street, is being renovated to become Hotel Indigo, a 137-room boutique hotel slated to open this year.

Brick, mortar and other debris were scattered across the sidewalk and street. Police have closed North Highland Avenue, starting at its intersection with Penn Avenue.

On Wednesday, investigators returned to the construction site. 

Channel 11 learned that the hotel was supposed to be completed last year but the project ran into trouble with financing, according to a spokesperson with the Urban Redevelopment Authority.  The spokesperson said it’s now on track to open in 2015.

Earle reported this isn’t the first time there has been a safety issue with the project.   The company was cited for an electrical violation.  No one was hurt.

It is not clear what caused the scaffolding to collapse. Officials with Pittsburgh's Bureau of Building Inspection and the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration are investigating.

Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.