SWOYERSVILLE - Emergency crews from several West Side communities removed a man from an excavator when the steeple at the former St. Mary’s Church collapsed.
Several witnesses watching the demolition said the steeple toppled onto an excavator at about 11:40 a.m.
About 15 members of the demolition crew from Buck Mountain Quarry and Brdaric Demolition rushed to the excavator and begin digging away debris and cutting metal with oxyacetylene torches and saws, witnesses said.
Rescue crews from Swoyersville, Forty Fort and Kingston removed the man about 15 minutes after the steeple toppled. The man was rushed to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
The Luzerne County Coroner’s Office identified the man as John Brdaric, owner of Brdaric Demolition and Buck Mountain Quarry in Swoyersville.
Glen Galion, of Jim Thorpe, said he was standing in front of the church when the steeple fell. He said a crane operator was unable to reach the front of the steeple as a man operating an excavator was trying to build a ramp out of debris to get closer to the top of the steeple.
Galion said the steeple “wiggled” before it toppled onto the excavator.
Police said they secured the scene until a representative from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration begins an investigation.
Demolition crews began razing the church just after 7 a.m.