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28460: Hermantin ( News)Haitian immigrant lost life while seeking new one as laborer (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Haitian immigrant lost life while seeking new one as laborer in Fort Lauderdale

By Macollvie Jean-François
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

June 15, 2006

Fort Lauderdale · Ibernier Boltimer seemed like one of the lucky ones among the many Haitian émigrés who cross the water in search of a better life. He made it to Miami in 1995 and endured detention at Krome, finally getting a work permit and construction jobs that let him support his family back home.

On Tuesday, the 43-year-old man died under a pile of metal at the future site of Trump International Tower and Hotel on A1A in Fort Lauderdale. He had been trying to move scaffolding when it fell on him.

"In searching for a life, he lost his life," said Chevelon Neriles, Boltimer's longtime landlord in northwest Fort Lauderdale. "He was a good man."

After police publicly identified Boltimer on Wednesday, friends and relatives said the quiet man supported relatives in his northern Haiti town of Port-de-Paix with his construction earnings.

"He took care of his twin daughters in Haiti," said his cousin Levana Nelson, 44, of Fort Lauderdale. "He came here for the girls."

To Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials, Boltimer's death is part of a worrisome trend that is the downside of South Florida's development boom.

"This is not going to be a good year," said Luis Santiago, director of OSHA's Fort Lauderdale area office, which investigates incidents from Monroe to Indian River counties. "There may be some more [deaths]."

Since the fiscal year began in September 2005, OSHA recorded 40 workplace fatalities in the region, seven of them in May, Santiago said. About six more have occurred since or are under investigation, meaning the deaths already have exceeded the previous year total of 44.

Nearly half of the deaths occurred at construction sites.

Eleven of the 2006 deaths occurred in Miami-Dade, nine in Broward and eight in Palm Beach County, Santiago said.

Nationwide, the construction industry reports more job-related fatalities than any other every year, according to an October 2005 Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly publication.

"They are all preventable," Santiago said.

Death and injury occur mostly because workers are not trained properly to identify, avoid and report potential hazards, he said. An OSHA report found that 25 percent of the fatalities investigated are in some way related to language or cultural barriers.

It was unclear which company Boltimer worked for. Fort Lauderdale police said he was an employee of Tala Construction of Fort Lauderdale, a subcontractor of Stiles Construction Co., the company putting up the 24-story, 298-unit condominium. Stiles spokeswoman Nancy Brusher said Wednesday Boltimer may have worked for a Tala subcontractor.

The investigation into the Tuesday accident that killed Boltimer is expected to take anywhere from one to four months. Brusher said the site was closed Wednesday out of respect for him.

Immigrants make up such a large portion of workers that OSHA keeps track of Hispanic victims. Soon, Santiago said, inspectors will have to start noting who is Haitian as well.

About a month ago, two Haitian construction workers were among three who died when a frame collapsed on them at a site in Miami-Dade County.

Lucienne Honoré, who allowed Boltimer to live in her Lauderdale Villas Drive home upon his release from Krome, showed a reporter his 2001 employment authorization card, the only thing she has left of him since he struck out on his own about three years ago.

She said he used to get up early in the morning to catch a bus to construction sites in Miami before he finally got a car. But he stopped by daily to say hello, sometimes on his way to the Baptist church he attended nearby.

Honoré, 61, was putting up hurricane shutters when she received news of his death Tuesday.

"I felt like I was sinking," she said. "He died in an ugly way."

Staff Researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.

Macollvie Jean-François may be reached at mjfrancois@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4694.

Copyright © 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel