Man’s recovery continues after beam falls on portable toilet at Durham work site

Man’s recovery continues after beam falls on portable toilet at Durham work site

DURHAM, NC (WNCN) - A tragic workplace accident last month turned the Zimmer family's lives upside down and changed 48-year-old Jessie Zimmer's life forever.

"There's times where he looks at you and you can tell he's listening to you," said Jessie's older brother, Jeff Zimmer of Fuquay-Varina. "He has started to communicate some by blinking his eyes like once for yes, twice for no, that kind of stuff."

Jessie Zimmer is in the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. He was injured Nov. 8 while working at a construction site in Durham when a metal beam fell five stories crushing a portable toilet while he was inside.

"He just got promoted to superintendent," said Jeff. "He was superintendent of the job that he was working on in Durham and he was real excited about that, just got a new company truck and everything, so he had a lot of things going for him."

Jeff Zimmer says his brother is passionate about plumbing and had never been injured on the job before. He's undergone multiple surgeries.

"When we first got there they weren't sure if he was gonna make it or not," Jeff Zimmer said. "He had such a bad head trauma that they took part of his skull off to relieve the pressure."

Jessie, who is also from Fuquay-Varina, is no longer in a coma, but he still can't communicate other than blinking. Jeff Zimmer says between the medical and travel expenses, the family was struggling, but then the community stepped in.

"It's a miracle my brother is even at this stage," said Jeff. "It's a miracle that he's alive and we're very very thankful for all the prayers and the support that everyone's given us. The generosity for people to help us financially and help my mom, I've seen my mom break down in tears just by the generosity of people."

A GoFundMe page created for Jessie has raised more than $20,000. Jeff says he's hopeful OSHA will get to the bottom of his brother's accident and his brother will make a full recovery.

"I don't really necessarily think the plumbing company should be held responsible because of the job site. I'm gonna wait and see what happens with the OSHA report," Jeff said.

Jessie worked for Acme Plumbing Company, contracted under Barnhill Contracting Company. CBS North Carolina did reach out to the contracting company for a statement, but so far have not heard back.

"As a big brother you always try to protect him and fortunately we've had a lot of really good times together, my brother and I and we're going to again," said Jeff Zimmer.