Jax Heights worker falls to death

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A construction worker from Jackson Heights fell to his death Friday while working on a building in Manhattan — the day before his birthday, police and family members said.

Jozef Wilk, who relatives said would have turned 52, was working inside an elevator shaft on the third floor of a construction site at 603 W. 129th St. at 2 p.m. Friday when he fell from scaffolding to the bottom of the shaft, police said.

Wilk was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital in cardiac arrest, police said. He was pronounced dead at 2:43 p.m., police said.

Wilk’s relatives said he was a Polish immigrant from a small town called Nowa Deba who had lived in Jackson Heights for 12 years.

“He was hardworking and a dedicated father,” said his daughter, Anna, who lives in Ridgewood and asked that her last name not be used. “It was a shock. We didn’t expect this. Yes, he had a dangerous job, but he was too young to die.”

Wilk was scheduled to pick up Anna’s children to stay at his house the day he died.

“He was a very helping person. He was very giving,” said son-in-law Kives. “[His grandchildren usually] went bananas when they saw him.”

Wilk’s death appeared to be the first fatal construction accident of 2010. Last year fatalities at building sites plummeted 84 percent from 19 in 2008 to three in 2009, the city Department of Buildings said. Initial permits issued for major construction also decreased 33 percent in 2009, the DOB said.

But while deaths were down, the total number of reported construction accidents rose from 151 in 2008 to 224 in 2009 and the total number of reported injuries rose from 178 in 2008 to 246 in 2009.

DOB Commissioner Robert LiMandri attributed the rise in the number of incidents to a shift toward more faithful accident reporting within the culture of construction companies.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 6:01 pm, October 10, 2011
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