In the shadows of the cranes, steel, and concrete upon which Las Vegas has pinned its addiction to growth, a body count has emerged. Nine construction workers have died in the last 16 months at Strip construction sites. For family members, the light response from government authorities has compounded the mourning process.
Construction workers had been dying at a rate of one every six weeks in the $32 billion building boom on the Las Vegas Strip. But deaths stopped last year after the Las Vegas Sun exposed serious safety flaws on the sites and detailed how lax oversight by safety regulators failed to prevent accidents.
The stories forced state and federal investigations and became the subject of hearings in the U.S. House and Senate. Sens. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid and others sent a letter to President Bush demanding safety reforms in the Labor Department.
As the Sun pursued the story, the newspaper reported on cozy relationships existing between safety regulators and builders. Angered by the revelations and continuing death toll, workers walked off the job at MGM Mirage's CityCenter, shutting down the largest private commercial development in U.S. history until the contractors agreed to safety improvements.
Twelve workers had died in 18 months. But after the improvements, the deaths stopped. No workers have died since June 2008.