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I-House custodian dies from critical injuries sustained in 20-foot fall

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APRIL 09, 2014

Damon Frick, a custodial worker at UC Berkeley’s International House, died as a result of critical injuries sustained in an occupational accident that occurred early Monday morning, the campus said Wednesday.

I-House Executive Director Hans Giesecke believes that Frick, who had worked at I-House since 2011, was at the top of a motorized lift wearing a backpack vacuum to clean the upper windows of the north wall of I-House’s auditorium when the lift tipped over. Frick fell about 20 feet, said campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore. Frick subsequently hit the wood floor and sustained various fractures, Giesecke said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and I-House colleagues during this difficult time,” Gilmore said in an email.

I-House is a nonprofit multicultural living center that serves UC Berkeley students and scholars. Staff members are employed by the campus.

Although there were no witnesses, Giesecke said two I-House staff members — I-House’s director of physical operations Greg Rodolari and another custodial worker — heard the crash and called 911. Berkeley Fire Department later transported Frick to Highland Hospital in Oakland.

Staff of the campus’s Office of Environment, Health and Safety staff began an initial investigation into the accident and will bring in a third-party professional to further analyze the equipment, Gilmore said in an email.

“We are heartbroken about this loss, and want to demonstrate our respect and recognition for his service here at I-House,” Giesecke said in an email to I-House residents. “The I-House community genuinely seeks to express its care about all of our staff members and we appreciate the fact that you do as well.”

It is unclear what caused the instability of the lift that Frick was operating. Investigation findings from EHS as well as California Occupational Safety and Health Administration are expected to be released Friday, according to Giesecke.

“Damon is one of the most hardworking and friendly janitors at I-House, and I am not saying this because this accident happened to him,” said Sidee Dlamini, a resident of I-House and UC Berkeley first-year graduate student, in an email.

In an email to I-House residents, Giesecke said the housing custodial team determined that the best way to honor Frick’s memory is to recognize him at the gala scheduled to be held at I-House on Thursday night, as well as create a trust fund in his memory.

Donations will be given to his family. Counseling services will continue to be available to residents.

“He’ll be missed around (I-House), where most residents know a lot of the members of staff pretty well,” said Jeff Schauer, an I-House resident and UC Berkeley graduate student, in an email. “I know he’s leaving behind a large family in addition to the I-House community, where a lot of people were pretty shaken up today by the news.”

Contact Zoe Kleinfeld at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @zoekleinfeld.

APRIL 10, 2014