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Construction worker dies in Ridgewood gun mishap

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A 52-year-old construction worker was killed Friday morning in Ridgewood when a shotgun he found in a dumpster discharged, firing shot pellets into his neck at nearly point-blank range, police said.

The victim, Orano Stepic, of Garden City Park, L.I., was working on a city sewers project along a two-block stretch of Woodward Avenue near Greene Street when the incident occurred at about 8:45 a.m., according to police.

"It was loud enough to make you jump," said Rosa Beck, a home health care aid who lives two blocks away. "You know - jump out of your skin."

Beck was waiting for a cab at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Harman Street - the other end of the block - when she heard the shot and another construction worker shout "Oh, my God!"

She said she ran toward the 10-yard blue dumpster and found Stepic slumped against the curb, blood covering his shoulder, neck and head.

Hours later, curious residents and Stepic's shocked co-workers looked on as police searched for clues around the body, which was shrouded in a blood-stained white sheet.

A law enforcement source said Stepic found the shotgun inside a small case, described as halfway between an attache case and a small suitcase. It was not clear who placed the shotgun in the dumpster.

The accident was still under investigation this week and another law enforcement official said no arrests were expected anytime soon.

The incident brought to a halt a sewer and water main modernization project on which Stepic's crew had been working. Other construction workers involved with an unrelated three-story condominium project at the same corner also stopped, shocked at what had happened to a man they saw daily and knew on a casual basis.

Joe Colmone, a plumber with the condominium crew, said Stepic was very friendly, helping members of that crew figure out the best places to park in the area.

"I'd see him maybe once in a day," Colmone, 22, said. "I'd have coffee with him."

The sewer project began in March and was expected to run through August, a spokesman for the city's Department of Design and Construction said.

The project was run by DDC, but Stepic worked for a private contractor, ADC Construction, of Maspeth, the spokesman said. The $1.3 million project began in March and is expected to be completed by Labor Day.

Members of Stepic's crew were under strict orders not to speak with reporters. But some, who asked that their names not be used, said Stepic was just about to leave work for the day when he found the shotgun.

They added that Stepic was an immigrant from Yugoslavia who was looking forward to visiting his native country during an upcoming vacation.

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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