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Barn collapse at track leaves six workers hurt

Barn collapse at track leaves six workers hurt

A worker broke his arm and five others suffered minor scrapes when a barn roof tumbled off its suppo
Barn collapse at track leaves six workers hurt
The barn that collapsed at the Oklahoma Training Track in Saratoga Springs is seen on Thursday.

A worker broke his arm and five others suffered minor scrapes when a barn roof tumbled off its supports as carpenters were raising it Thursday at the Oklahoma Training Track of Saratoga Race Course.

The man was airlifted to Albany Medical Center Hospital after the 8:30 a.m. accident. The other five workers, four men and one woman, were treated at the scene for their scrapes and cuts and remained at work, said Charlie Wheeler, New York Racing Association facilities manager.

NYRA officials and city police were not releasing the workers’ names yet.

The skilled carpenters, all members of a carpenters’ union and NYRA employees, were renovating Barn 50, the seventh barn to be rebuilt as part of an ongoing renovation project at the training track on Union Avenue. The barns have sunk into the ground over the decades, Wheeler said, and new walls are being installed at each barn, one at a time.

It will cost between $50,000 and $70,000 to rebuild the 10-stall barn, and that construction will be complete in six to eight weeks.

“Whatever we will do, we will use the existing materials as much as possible,” Wheeler said, adding NYRA will continue with the rest of the barn renovations as planned.

Barn 50 in Horse Haven was assigned to trainer Gary Contessa, who did not have horses in it yet because it was being renovated.

After the accident, the slate roof of the 120-by-25-foot barn lay on the ground where it fell. Wheeler said he couldn’t guess how many tons the roof weighs. “With the slate on there, it’s not light.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was called in to investigate the accident.

Wheeler said the carpenters were using eight barn jacks per stall rather than the required minimum of five jacks per stall. As the workers hoisted the roof to its intended height, its weight shifted and the roof fell to its side, Wheeler said.

Two workers were inside the structure and the other four were outside. No one else was near the barn at the time.

The accident caused quite a hubbub at the training grounds by the time police arrived. “There were a lot of people running around,” said assistant police chief Christopher Cole. “It was chaos, but it was controlled chaos.”

It was the first time Cole recalls receiving such a call from the race track in his 19 years with the force.

Police are investigating the accident but don’t consider it suspicious, he said.

The barn also knocked down an electrical pole, and authorities were securing that Thursday morning.

City officials don’t typically do building safety inspections at the track, said Commissioner of Public Safety Ron Kim.

“Our authority is all wrapped up in the same controversy over whether the state owns the land or NYRA does,” Kim said. The city typically has given up the right to do inspections to state authorities, except for annual fire inspections, which the city does itself.

NYRA does its own routine barn inspections and has been renovating older barns since 1990, said Mark Bardack, a spokesman for the track.

The training season on the Oklahoma track is not yet in full swing; only 30 percent of its barns are currently occupied, officials said.

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