Worker dies in accident at ground zero

A construction worker was killed while working in the World Trade Center pit Tuesday. He was the first person to die in an accident at the site since Sept. 11, 2001.

Hugo V. Martinez, 36, was crushed by a construction lift 20 feet from the ground while painting a portion of the commuter rail station that is being rebuilt. Fellow workers found his body shortly afterward.

According to Martinez’s employer, Alvin Levine of L&L Painting, the company doesn’t know exactly what happened. Martinez worked for L&L for eight years.

“We’re all devastated,” Levine told the Associated Press.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, along with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is investigating the accident. OSHA spokesman Ted Fitzgerald told AP a typical analysis would be done to determine if safety standards were met. Fines could be charged if lapses in the safety code are discovered.

The rail station being rebuilt is part of the Trans-Hudson lines that were destroyed when the twin towers fell during the 9/11 terrorist attack. City officials said it is remarkable no one was killed or seriously injured during the cleanup process, when workers balanced on top of a 10-story pile of unstable, smoldering debris and rubble. The cleanup process was completed in May 2002.