Construction company blamed in N.J. theater collapse

The collapse of a historic theater in Millville, N.J., has been blamed on the construction company doing restoration work at the site.

A portion of the Levoy Theater fell Jan. 3, causing at least one injury. Now the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has faulted the Ogren Construction company based in Vineland, N.J.

Built in 1908, the Levoy Theater was in the midst of an $8 million renovation when the front portion fell. Workers with Ogren Construction were digging a deeper basement floor at the time. According the OSHA citation, there was not enough ground support to hold up the adjacent brick walls.

“The company was cited for two serious violations,” said OSHA spokeswoman Leni Fortson. “A lack of adequate shoring of the wall that was adjacent to the theater, and whatever business was in the adjoining location.”

No one at Ogren was available for comment. The company has the option to contest OSHA’s findings.

Reconstruction work is continuing at the theater, and the Levoy Theater Preservation Society is still using Ogren to do the work.

“It remains to be seen if the OSHA report is valid and accurate,” said Society board director Phillip van Embden, a member of the society board. “I haven’t seen any report to date that indicates the exact cause of the collapse. I’m surprised OSHA has concluded that–nobody was on the scene at the time of the occurrence.”

Van Embden says the theater is on schedule to open in April.

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