KAUFMAN (CBSDFW.COM) – A 37-year-old Kaufman man fell to his death Saturday when the balcony at his apartment complex collapsed, pitching him headfirst onto the pavement 12 feet below.
Maintenance workers at the Windtree Apartments were repairing balconies and stairway landings when the accident occurred. Jose Martinez-Hernandez was drinking beer on his balcony, according to friends and neighbors.
“It was definitely upsetting, it really was because like I said, he was such a good neighbor,” said Cheryl Wolfe, who lives downstairs.
She’s also concerned about coming and going into her own home.
“Definitely worried about the safety coming in and out. We didn’t know what was going on.”
“It was just a tragedy,” said another neighbor, Derbert Peace, who came running as soon as he heard the crash.
His friend Martinez-Hernandez had fallen headfirst through a recently repaired landing, which was the sole means of entry to his second floor apartment.
“The sides of the portion were just hanging there; you could see right where he fell through the middle. The sides were still hanging up there,” he said.
Kaufman police and code inspectors were at the complex most of the day Monday investigating the death and trying to determine if any other balconies or landings were unsafe.
They red-tagged 26-units and warned occupants to go somewhere else for their own safety. They also said Saturday’s repairs were not authorized.
“They were doing it without the city’s knowledge,” said Dale Jackson, an outside expert hired as the city’s building official. “Normally in most cities any time you deal with anything structural with an exterior exit or any exit in general – you need a permit.”
He also termed the repairs he saw as “substandard.” A representative of the complex didn’t want to discuss Saturday’s incident. A man who identified himself only as “Juan” said Windtree would do whatever the city wants.
“We’re just trying to do whatever they ask us to do and we’re going to go from here,” Juan said. We don’t want nobody else to get hurt and we have to … whatever they ask us to do.”
Though the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s office ruled the death accidental, Kaufman police continue their probe while assisting the city’s code enforcement office in its investigation.
Jose’s family members came to the location late Monday to help Jose’s brother move – the apartment he and Jose shared had been red-tagged.