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Novato man killed by pipe at Petaluma construction site

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Jared Overfield knew it was a risky job, but he was drawn to construction because of the camaraderie found at the work sites, his stepfather Daniel Zamberlin said.

He said his 28-year-old stepson cared about the people he worked with and recently had been promoted to foreman. Overfield was killed Wednesday morning in a construction site accident in southern Petaluma.

“He loved construction people,” Zamberlin said. “He knew how dangerous construction was. Big equipment is dangerous … And it happens so freakin’ quick.”

“It’s just not fair,” he said.

Overfield and co-workers had been working on a Highway 101 project that involves improving the frontage road where Petaluma Boulevard South connects with Kastania Road. He was helping to guide the movement of a 40-foot, 8,000-pound pipe, standing by as a forklift operator began to set it down onto the ground on a hillside just west of Highway 101, near the new Petaluma Boulevard South overpass. But the massive metal pipe encased in concrete began to roll and ended up crushing him, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said.

Overfield was standing in front of the forklift when the pipe began to roll, sheriff’s Sgt. Cecile Focha said. Calls for help to the site came at about 7:15 a.m., with initial reports of a worker trapped underneath a pipe. About 10 minutes later, reports indicated the worker had died.

The incident unfolded within view, just uphill, of passing motorists.

Cal Fire, Petaluma and San Antonio firefighters, an ambulance and a medical helicopter were sent to the scene. A Novato fire battalion chief, CHP officers and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office also responded.

The pipe that hit Overfield was the first of five to be unloaded from a flatbed truck. The remaining four pipes were later unloaded without incident.

“He was a sharp kid,” Zamberlin said about Overfield, a Novato native who had played varsity soccer while at San Marin High School. “He could have done anything.”

Overfield had studied photography at the Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara before coming to the North Bay to work in construction, Zamberlin said.

“He was doing what he wanted to do,” he said. “Of course, his mother always worried.”

Zamberlin, a general contractor, said Overfield used to help him out. Overfield also helped his father, Peter Overfield, with his carpet-cleaning business. “He worked hard,” Zamberlin said.

The Sheriff’s Office is investigating his death, along with Cal-OSHA, the state agency tasked with investigating workplace accidents.

He was an employee of the San Rafael-based Maggiora & Ghilotti engineering contractors, Focha said.

The company issued a short statement later that day.

“Our utmost concern and priority at this time is to the family for their sudden loss and ask that your thoughts and prayers go out to them during this difficult time,” the statement read.

It also mentioned that the company is “working closely” with the Sheriff’s Office and Cal-OSHA in their investigations.

Company officials declined to comment further. However, one employee, who did not want to be identified, said Overfield worked for the company for eight years and was a “well-liked, hardworking part of the company.”

Cal-OSHA spokesman Peter Melton said the company was cited a handful of times in the past decade but that they were all minor violations. The most recent one was in 2010, Melton said. The company had failed to hold a mandatory pre-job safety meeting before a job that involved drilling or tunneling.

“This is an investigation that takes time,” Melton said, adding they have up to six months to complete their investigation.

OSHA officials, for example, will look into whether the construction company adequately trained employees and had proper safety procedures in place, Melton said.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com or Twitter@rossmannreport. You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 521-5458 or eloisa.gonzalez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @eloisanews.

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