LOS ANGELES — An electrician, who was on just his second day working at what will be Los Angeles' tallest skyscraper, plunged more than 50 floors to his death, onto a busy city intersection that hummed with a normal weekday's bustle.
It took some time for people below to realize the horror of what had happened, said Los Angeles Times photographer Mel Melcon, who was on assignment at the building.
"No one thought it was a body," Melcon told his paper. "We heard no screams."
The man fell 53 stories — about 800 feet — Thursday from the unfinished Wilshire Grand Center, and landed on a passing car, Los Angeles police said. He was not supposed to be above the third floor, construction company officials said.
He had taken off his hard hat and had not been wearing a safety harness because it wasn't required for the bottom floors he was working on, said Lisa Gritzner, spokeswoman for Turner Construction, the main contractor on the project. She could say no more about what may have caused the man to fall or why he was on the upper floor. His name has not been released.
The car he struck appeared to be undamaged, but a rear side panel was splattered with blood, officials said.
James Armstrong III was walking to a nearby bank just after the fall when he saw police helping the driver.
"She was hysterical," waving her hands in the air and holding her head, he said. But she did not seem to be hurt, Armstrong said.
The woman was taken to a hospital to be examined, fire officials said.
The 73-story skyscraper, the tallest on the West Coast, will be about 1,100 feet tall, or nearly a quarter-mile, when it's completed. A ceremony was held earlier this month when the top beam was hoisted into place on the 73rd floor. The $1 billion office and hotel tower being developed by Korean Airlines Co. Ltd. is expected to open in early 2017.
The building is near the Staples Center arena where the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers play and is at the center of the bustling and fast-growing financial district of downtown.
There were barricades around the edge of the building and other safety measures in place, said Chris Martin, CEO of Martin Project Management, which is overseeing the building.
All of the building's 891 workers had undergone training, Martin said.
"There's safety training for every worker on the job, and certain locations there's very specialized training. So these are all smart people," Martin said. "We had no injuries up to this date."
Gritzner said the company had found all safety protocols were followed.
Work was shut down for the day.