Denver’s ‘Blue Mustang’ and construction deaths

The rearing Blue Mustang – a 32-foot-high fiberglass sculpture that has guarded Denver International Airport for the last decade – has gained notoriety not just for its glowing neon red eyes and locally-dubbed nickname of “Blucifer.” It actually killed its creator Luis Jimenez.

The renowned and, sometimes, controversial sculptor essentially died in a workplace accident at his studio in Hondo, New Mexico, in 2006. He and two assistants were using a hoist to move a section of the Blue Mustang sculpture when the piece became loose and fell on Jimenez, pinning him to a steel support and severing a main artery in his leg.

Nearly 1,000 died in U.S. construction deaths in 2016

One may attribute Jimenez’s death to an industrial or construction accident. Through the years, there have been thousands throughout the country. The Occupational Health and Safety Association (OSHA) reports that of the nearly 4,700 private industry worker fatalities that occurred in 2016, a total of 991 or 21.1 percent were in construction.

Top four causes of construction deaths

According to OSHA, the top four causes of death for construction workers in 2016 were:

  • Falls, which accounted for 384 deaths or 38.7 percent.
  • Struck by an object: 93 deaths or 9.4 percent
  • Electrocutions: 82 deaths or 8.3 percent
  • Caught-in/between: 72 deaths or 7.3 percent. The artist Jimenez’s death would be in this category in which construction workers were caught-in or compressed by objects, and struck, caught or crushed by a collapsing structure, equipment of material.

Construction accidents remain a concern as many of the industry’s related workplace deaths may be preventable as some builders ignore safety regulations and hire untrained workers. Although the workplace accident and subsequent death of artist Jimenez has tenuous ties to Colorado and the construction industry, it stands as a memorable example for focusing on workplace safety.


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