South Carolina

Roofer was not wearing a harness when he fell off Lake Norman mansion, autopsy shows

A roofer was not wearing his “customary harness” when he fell off a Lake Norman mansion in Cornelius and died, according to an autopsy report by the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Jason Ray Thomas of Locust in Cabarrus County fell about 40 feet off the roof of the home in the 17500 block of Paradise Cove Lane on June 5, according to the autopsy report released to The Charlotte Observer on Thursday.

The 43-year-old roofer was measuring the roof for his employer, Taylor Roofing of Wesley Chapel in Union County, according to the report. He was working at the home with his son, the report shows.

The Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death an accident.

Mecklenburg County property tax records list the home as 2 1/2 stories and 7,300 square feet.

An investigation by government inspectors into safety issues remains open, according to Taylor Roofing’s inspection file on the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration website. In North Carolina, inspectors with the NC Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Division handle inspections for the federal OSHA.

Since the case is still open, the NC Department of Labor cannot release further details, spokeswoman Natalie Bouchard told The Charlotte Observer on Friday. Such inspections can take up to six months, she said.

When a worker falls off a roof and is hurt or dies, state inspectors will determine if government-required fall protections were in place, if a guardrail system had a top rail and mid-rail, and if the employer trained its workers on protecting against falls, according to the state Occupational Safety and Health Division website.

Investigators also check to see if the worker had “personal protective equipment” such as “slip-resistant steel-toed work shoes, hard hat and a personal fall arrest system,” according to the website. Inspectors also determine if ladders “were inspected for structural defects.”

About 50 roofers are killed on the job in the U.S. each year, most by falls, according to the Center for Construction Research and Training, the Observer previously reported. That’s the fifth-highest work-related death rate in construction, at 29.9 deaths per 100,000 workers, center statistics show.

Government reports blame “inadequate fall protection” for most of the fatal falls, according to the center.

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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.