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  1. Clearwater

Man crushed to death working on Clearwater stormwater project

CLEARWATER — Tino Carmo was busy looking at blueprints when he heard a scream.

He looked up and saw a normal day turn into something unthinkable. One of his fellow workers on a Clearwater stormwater project had been crushed to death.

It was about 1 p.m. A man was working in a trench that was stabilized by a large steel plate. Somehow, the plate collapsed onto him, said Clearwater spokeswoman Joelle Castelli. He was the only person injured in the accident.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the incident, Castelli said.

The city did not name the deceased worker Monday because it had not yet informed his next of kin of the accident.

Clearwater officials may have trouble tracking down the man's family, said Carolina Bravo, who went to church with the deceased at Camino de Vida in Palm Harbor. He came to America alone at age 15, and most of his relatives were still in Mexico, Bravo said. The man's emergency contact was his pastor, Eduardo Huapaya.

He worked hard, and he loved to laugh, Bravo said. Even though he was quiet, he was quick to make jokes — and quicker to help the elderly women at his church.

"He was very loved by all of us in church," Bravo said, just yards from the site of the accident. She and others from the church came to the site to try to figure out how their friend died.

From what they could tell, Monday was a normal day for the 10-year veteran of Keystone Excavators. Bravo ate with the man at the El Texano restaurant in Palm Harbor on Sunday, and she said he didn't mention anything about his upcoming work.

Workers and subcontractors for Keystone Excavators Inc. came to the residential 1400 block of Jeffords Street on behalf of the city of Clearwater. Their job was to help the city beef up its stormwater retention infrastructure by 2020.

Carmo, of Central Florida Contractors, said it was his first day on the job site. He was there as a subcontractor for Keystone Excavators.

"This is the first time I've seen something like this," said Carmo.

Times staff writer Kavitha Surana and senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.