Elevator Worker Dies at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara

Construction site will remain shut down Wednesday and will reopen Thursday

A 63-year-old elevator mechanic doing work at the new Levi's Field under construction died Tuesday morning where the San Francisco 49ers are poised to play when the high-tech stadium is finally built.

State Occupation Safety and Health Administration spokesman Peter Melton told NBC Bay Area that the man - identified by his company as Donald White - was standing on a ladder beneath the counter-weight of an elevator when the weight came down and struck him on the east side of the construction site.

Santa Clara city leaders said the call came in at 6:45 a.m. Construction executives said that it wasn't a construction elevator but a permanent one.

The 49ers public relations team sent out a brief statement saying that the organization was "deeply saddened" by the news.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and co-workers affected by this tragedy," the statement read. "The 49ers family has lost a teammate today."

A woman who identified herself as White's wife came to the site, wracked with grief. She declined to speak.

All 1,000-plus workers were sent home and grief counselors were being called in to help those deal with the shocking workplace tragedy.

Raw Video: Aerial View of Levi's Stadium After Elevator Worker Dies

Turner Devon of Milpitas is the main contractor building the  new $1.3 billion stadium, and the worker was a subcontractor for Schindler Elevator Corporation, which has headquarters in Switzerland and Morristown, NJ, and a satellite office in San Leandro.

Schindler Corp. sent NBC Bay Area a statement saying that the company is "extremely saddened by the tragic loss of our employee, Donald White, an elevator installer who worked for Schindler for many years."

The statement added: "As a leading manufacturer of elevators and escalators since 1874, Schindler is committed to the safety of its equipment, its workers and the riding public.  We  offer our sincere condolences to Mr. White's family, friends and co-workers."

According to the website of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Schindler Corp.'s San Leandro office was fined $25,000 in April 2011 for what the agency deemed as a "serious accident"  (PDF) at a construction site in Palo Alto. In that case, Kenneth Andrews, 32, suffered multiple fractures when he fell 19 feet into an elevator shaft at 1501 Page Mill Road, the report states.

Since 2008, the company's California worksites have been fined six times for other accidents stemming from places including Chula Vista, Redondo Beach, San Diego and Sacramento, according to OSHA records online. The total cost of those fines during that time period cost Schindler about $165,000.

Schindler has had other problems around the country, too. A fan sued the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority and the Schindler Elevator Co. when an elevator at the former Giants Stadium sent fans tumbling down on top of each other on Oct. 1, 2006 after the New York Jets played Indianapolis. Another Schindler escalator malfunctioned after a December 2007 game sending five people to the hospital. The plaintiffs in that case settled with Schindler.

Turner-Devcon project directors Robert Rayborn and Jonathan Harvey held a morning news conference to express their shock and sadness, adding that their thoughts were with White's family.

Harvey said denied any claim that the death occurred because crews are rushing to finish building the stadium, which is  slated to be open by fall 2014.

"Safety is our top priority," Harvey said. "We will never put someone in a hazardous situation."

This is the first death since construction began on the site last April. A person did break a foot on site within the last 13 months, the directors said.

Work was halted on Tuesday while investigators from Cal-OSHA surveyed the site.

Last  month,  Levi's Stadium was chosen by the National Football League to host Super Bowl L in 2016.

NBC Bay Area's  Kim Tere contributed to this report.

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