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Man dies in fall while dismantling church

Published February 02. 2010 05:00PM

A man working on the dismantling of a Schuylkill County church was killed Monday when he fell from a high lift.

The incident occurred at St. George Catholic Church in Shenandoah. Killed was John Martz, 53, of Oneida. Another worker, Anthony Webb, of Tower City, was injured in the incident. Martz was pronounced dead at the scene. Webb was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

According to reports, Martz and Webb were working on the north steeple after a chunk of the building hit the basket of the lift the two were working from.

The Empire Group, of Reading, was hired by the diocese of Allentown to demolish the church. The diocese deemed the church was no longer safe.

The church was the home to the oldest ethnic Lithuanian Catholic parish in the United States.

The church was built in 1915 and renovations were made following a fire that occurred in 1938.The church was closed on May 14, 2006, after officials reported structural problems with the two large steeples.

The decision to demolish the church was challenged by many of the parishioners who filed suit in the Schuylkill County court. A judge denied the appeal and ruled the diocese had the right to demolish the building.

Matt Kerr, communications director for the diocese, based in Allentown, extended condolences on behalf of Bishop John O. Barres and the diocese to the Martz family.

Borough police, the district attorney office and the office of the coroner are conducting an investigation into the incident.

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