On the morning of October 9, two maintenance staff members, Glenn Crawford and Leon Pulsinelle, were injured while changing light bulbs in the Performing Arts Center. The Genie Lift AWP-30 machine that they were using tipped over, and both staff members—Crawford in the bucket of the machine and Pulsinelle standing at the base—were thrown from their positions.
According to Genie, the machine tipped over because the outriggers, or stabilizing legs, that are typically fixed to the base were not attached. Pulsinelle was standing on the base, according to a police report filed on October 9 with the Princeton Police Department by private Jennifer Gering.
Genie employee Melinda Smith wrote in a statement, “Before raising the platform, all four outriggers must be properly installed and the leveling jacks firmly contacting the floor. Based on preliminary information, it appears that the outrigger interlocks on the machine involved in the accident were disabled and that the outriggers were not being used as required.”
If the interlocks had not been disabled, the machine would not have functioned because the outriggers were removed, according to Smith. “These interlocks prevent the machine from being elevated if the outriggers are not properly installed. Outrigger interlocks and other safety devices on this machine must never be disabled. Doing so can compromise the stability of the machine,” she wrote.
According to the police report, the apparatus was extended to about 21 feet when the accident occurred. “Mr. Pulsinelle said that he tried to ‘counterbalance’ the Genie from tipping over by putting his weight on the base. Mr. Pulsinelle said that the Genie then began falling over atop of the row of chairs and he was thrown from the base onto his left side,” read the report. “It was determined that he fell from the ‘cage’ of the Genie after it tipped over.”
Vincent Metallo, a choir instructor, was performing his third period hall duty in the PAC lobby when he heard a large crash come from within the PAC. “Within ten [or] 15 seconds, Mr. [Julian] Eubank, who is the [technical] director of the PAC, came running out and said, ‘Call 911,’” Metallo said. “I then went back in to see if there was anything I [could] do, and at that point I saw that there was … equipment that had fallen over,” he said.
However, Metallo was not inside for long, as he realized that multiple school officials and health personnel had arrived at the scene in the time that it had taken him to call 911. “I saw that there were people around making sure everybody was okay, [so] I ran out to make sure I was there to keep the door open for the police and the ambulance,” he said. “There were about four people that came within 25 seconds after I had called.”
Metallo praised the PHS staff and administrators who first arrived to the scene. “I think it’s important … how quickly the community responded to this,” he said. “If anybody is in need of assistance, there’s a really good system in place and people just reacted very quickly and were very helpful.”
One of the first people to arrive was principal Gary Snyder, who had been called down immediately after the accident took place. “We communicate by walkie-talkie so when there’s a medical issue … folks go there, and there’s different roles that we play,” Snyder said. “[When] I go to an accident scene, I [make sure] … that things are happening accordingly, communicating back with the main office if we need to.”
While the police and ambulances were making their way to the school, school staff were able to administer first aid. “Others were there, assessing injuries and making determinations of how all that was going to be handled—an obvious person is the school nurse,” Snyder said.
Pulsinelle received c-spine stabilization from the nurse, said the police report by Gering. “Mr. Pulsinelle complained of pain to his left ear and back. He also had a large bump on the back of his skull,” it said.
The staff who immediately responded did not have to wait long before the professionals arrived. “The police showed up first, and that was … I would say within 10 minutes of calling,” said Metallo. “The ambulance came … probably 12 to 15 minutes after 911 was called.”
The two injured maintenance workers were taken to two different hospitals for further assessment of their injuries. “Mr. Crawford appeared to be in extreme discomfort and complained of pain to his chest,” the police report said. “He also had a large abrasion to his left side. Mr. Crawford was ultimately transported to Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton, NJ by Plainsboro First Aid and Rescue Squad… [while] Mr. Pulsinelle was ultimately transported to Capital Health Medical Center in Hopewell, NJ by Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad.”
After school on October 9, Snyder called an emergency faculty meeting where he briefed the school’s faculty on the events that had occurred in the PAC earlier that day.
Although the injured staff members were removed from the scene of the fall relatively quickly, investigation in the PAC continued into the next day. “For any accident, they … tape it off to make sure they find out all evidence and what had happened, and so as far as we were told, the police needed to investigate, [and] the insurance company needed to investigate,” said Metallo. “Nobody was allowed to enter until it was officially opened at 2 [p.m.] on Friday.”
The closing of the PAC posed a problem for PHS Choir, which had its first performance of Candide on October 10, the day that the PAC reopened. “It made it quite stressful in that we weren’t able to have our dress rehearsal, but we pushed our dress rehearsal to Friday right before the concert, so we were able to have a run-through right before the performance,” said Metallo.
The choir dedicated the performances to Pulsinelle and Crawford. “The officers of the choir had asked if we could mention something before the concert started … [dedicating] these performances to both of these guys, [saying] that they were in our thoughts and providing them well-wishes,” Metallo said.
The current situation and privacy of the workers is closely protected; however, they are getting better. “I know they have both been released from the hospital, but that’s really the only detail that I know at this point,” Metallo said.
Crawford, Pulsinelle, and Superintendent Stephen Cochrane could not be reached for comment. Eubank, Vice Principal Jared Warren, and Director of Plant Operations Gary Weisman declined to comment.