James Bickers

James Andrew Bickers

The builder of the $114-million Caldera High School project in Bend maintained unsafe conditions that contributed to the death of a 38-year-old roofer in August, according to a safety report by Oregon Occupational Safety and Health.

General contractor Kirby Nagelhout Construction Co. was cited for a single “serious” safety violation and fined $2,450. Its roofing subcontractor, River Roofing, was also cited for a serious violation and fined $3,600.

The inspection report, released this week to The Bulletin through a public records request, sheds light on the accident that killed James Andrew Bickers and the conditions inspectors with Oregon OSHA say contributed to it.

Both River Roofing and Kirby Nagelhout have filed notices of appeal with Oregon OSHA. Both dispute the claims and maintain information in the citation is inaccurate. “(Kirby Nagelhout) met or exceeded all criteria set forth in (the relevant law),” wrote Kirby Nagelhout safety director Jeshua Scheer.

Kirby Nagelhout is a Bend-based general contractor with a heavy focus on school projects around the state. It’s the 16th largest builder in the state, according to annual billings.

River Roofing is a mid-sized Redmond roofing contractor with 44 employees. At the time of the accident, it was installing a new roof on the gym at the Caldera project, with an average daily crew of about 15 employees.

On Aug. 4, a five-person River Roofing crew arrived to work an hour early — at 6 a.m. — because that day was expected to be hot, the inspection report states.

For Bickers, who’d been hired a month earlier, it was his first day working “cart crew” on the gymnasium roof, hauling materials to where they were needed.

At 6:58 a.m., Bickers and the four others in the cart crew were relocating a 200-pound rubber-wheeled cart carrying a 900-pound bundle of rigid insulation. At the time, part of the roof was covered in plywood and the remainder in a water shield that was covered with dew, making it slightly slick, the report states.

The crew took positions around the 1,100-pound cart, two in front and three in the back. After lifting it over an 8-inch gap, it began to roll away from them. As the cart came within 10 feet of the edge, the two men in front dove to the side and the other two men in back let go of the cart, the report states.

It’s thought Bickers held on longer than the others and his momentum carried him over the edge, the report states.

Bickers fell 45 feet to the concrete below. Paramedics attempted CPR before pronouncing him dead at 7:05 a.m.

Safety inspectors with Oregon OSHA were on site a total of seven days, and 14 employees of Kirby Nagelhout and River Roofing were interviewed. They reported that numerous loads had been transported in the same manner in the weeks before the accident. The roofing foreman overseeing Bickers that day told inspectors using the cart was the best way to move materials on the roof and he’d never had any close calls using it. But several River Roofing employees reported that using the cart was difficult and “sketchy,” the report states.

The report states that River Roofing violated safety rules by not ensuring Bickers was trained on using the cart on a pitched roof. Additionally it did not provide him all possible safety measures. The report includes a blown-up photo of the cart involved in the accident showing a warning sticker advising that the device is intended for use on flat surfaces.

In October, Bickers’ parents, Mary and Bill, were named representatives of his estate. They’ve retained Portland civil attorney Thomas D’Amore to sue for wrongful death.

D’Amore expects to file suit in two to three weeks, he told The Bulletin.

“This kid was beloved by a lot of people, not just his family,” D’Amore said. “It’s a real tragedy for a lot of people.”

Bickers died two weeks before he was to be married. His fiancee, Brooke Takacs, told The Bulletin on Thursday she was relieved the report found fault with the contractors. She called Bickers an “amazing man” who was no stranger to dangerous jobsites and working at height.

Reporter: 541-383-0325,


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