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Calls for safer construction sites after officials say debris hit, killed a man biking on West Campus

"We need more student housing here, but we need accountability for construction standards so people's lives don't get taken," one UT student said.

AUSTIN, Texas — Students and a University of Texas safety group are calling for more secure construction sites after Austin police were called to the scene of a man hit and killed by construction debris.

The intersection of 24th and Rio Grande streets is an active part of West Campus near UT. 

"Whether it's traffic or construction objects, this is just a dangerous place to be passing through," UT Ph.D. student Benjamin Yiapan said.

Medics said on March 2, possible construction debris from a high-rise construction site hit and killed a man on his bike at the Shell Gas Station on 2400 Rio Grande St.

The incident was caught on surveillance camera, but it's graphic. The piece of debris appeared to be as large as the victim. 

Safehorns, a group advocating for student safety, said Michael Delgado was a 29-year-old father. 

"It's very sad to us that Michael Delgado had to lose his life," said Joell McNew, Safehorns president.

Even though Delgado wasn't a student, McNew said with a dozen construction sites in the area, the city and the university need to improve construction safety rules.

"What are those inspections?" McNew asked. "Are they just regular? We want more frequent inspections. We want to make sure that the properties are more secure."

McNew said it wasn't the only incident that day. 

"Thirty minutes prior, a student reported that scaffolding from this building had fallen on his vehicle right here," McNew said.

Yiapen said he rides his bike every day and has seen his share of what appeared to be close calls. 

"It's just scary," Yiapen said. "I want to avoid this intersection, and it's in my neighborhood. I'm going to be here for another year-and-a-half."

The spokesperson for Greystar, the company building the high rise, shared the following statement: 

"Our thoughts are with the family of the person who passed away as a result of this tragic accident. We have reached out to the family's attorney and have offered assistance at this very difficult time.

"Greystar has been cooperating with authorities in the investigation and will continue to do so. The focus of our attention at this time is the person who passed away and his family." 

The Delgado family's attorney, Aaron Von Flatern of FVF Law, shared this statement:

"Our investigation into Michael Delgado's death is ongoing. We look forward to providing more answers to the family as the case unfolds. That said, we already know this was a highly preventable event. Construction companies have to do a better job of securing the growing number of elevated job sites here in Austin. There are so many Austin residents living in the shadow of high-rise construction just like this. As a community, we must insist on full accountability."

McNew said her biggest fear is it will happen again. 

"It's so tragic, and it could happen again," McNew said. "It will happen again if we don't take measures and really make sustainable changes."

McNew said students in the area attempted to save the man but failed.

"Everybody knows Austin's a real estate boomtown, whether it's residential or commercial housing," Yiapan said. "We need more student housing here, but we need accountability for construction standards, so people's lives don't get taken."

If you are a student impacted by this tragedy and need counseling, contact VAN Victims Advocate Network at UTPD-VAN@Austin.utexas.edu or call 512-232-9699.

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