Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Public safety

Man killed when wall of Seminole house collapses

SEMINOLE — Sam Boriboun had for months watched the men next door labor on the addition to the vacant house at 8080 Robin Road. They had bought it in April and worked for hours each week, often through the night.

On Friday around noon, one of them, Arben Berberi, was crouched with his head down and his back to one of the tall concrete block walls. Without warning or clear cause, it fell on top of him.

To Boriboun, the collapse looked like a waterfall and sounded like a thunderstorm.

He rushed over. He tried to pull Berberi from the heap but couldn't. He and the two men working with Berberi — his brother-in-law Genci Shkullaku and his father-in-law Shahin Shkullaku — screamed for help. Neighbors couldn't raise the wall. Someone felt for a pulse. Nothing.

"I ran to pick him up, to help. Too late," said Boriboun, 55. "One second. That's it."

Berberi was pronounced dead at the scene. He was 52.

Much of what led to the apparent accident, which is still under investigation, remains unclear.

Within the last few months, neighbors say, a county official had instructed the men to tear down what they had built because it wasn't secure and was at risk of collapsing.

Soon after, they started over.

Pinellas County records indicate that Berberi filed a notice of commencement on Oct. 23. A permit number was listed on the document.

Because county offices were closed on Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday, it's unknown who requested the permit. None of the men working at the site are listed in the state's record of general contractors.

Berberi owns four single-family homes in Seminole, according to property records.

All three men had construction experience, said Berberi's 15-year-old daughter, Sindi. In fact, she said, her father had built the home their family lives in now.

Her uncle intended to move into the place on Robin Road.

Berberi was a manager at Hit Promotional Products, she said. The family had moved to Pinellas County from Albania eight or nine years ago.

Just hours after two deputies had told Sindi of her father's death, the teen looked numb. She struggled to speak about what had happened, or anything at all.

"He was," she said, pausing, "a really nice guy."

Times staff writer Laura C. Morel and researchers Natalie A. Watson and Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Reach John Woodrow Cox at [email protected]

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