WOONSOCKET — An apparent accident at the former St. Francis House apartment building at 167 Blackstone St. claimed the life of a relative of the building’s owner Tuesday afternoon.
Alan Fernandes, 49, of Woonsocket, stepped on a glass skylight in the floor of the building’s attic and fell four flights down the open stairwell below to the building’s basement, according to Woonsocket Police Lt. Eugene Jalette.
Fernandes, brother of the building’s owner Gary Fernandes, was transported by city rescue personnel to Landmark Medical Center where he later died, according to Jalette.
Gary Fern-andes is conducting a major renovation of the former assisted living apartment building after having purchased it from the Diocese of Providence. Gary Fernandes, who has renovated several properties in the city including the River Falls complex at Market Square, was not at the building at the time of the accident and arrived at the scene after emergency personnel, Jalette said.
Alan Fernandes is believed to have stopped in at the building to check on the work going on there, Jalette said. He had gone up the staircase and into the attic area where the accident occurred. The skylight in the floor was below another skylight the building’s roof and may have been installed when the building was constructed to help light the stairway below.
“It was a tragedy, it really was,” Jalette said. “You have people working to improve a property and something like this happens.”
Police were investigating the death as a possible industrial accident due to the renovation work but could not make that ruling definitively Tuesday.
The federal Occupational, Health and Safety Administration was notified of the incident and sent investigators to the scene to assist the department in its investigation, Jalette said. The state Medical Examiner’s Office was expected to complete an autopsy.
The Fernandes brothers are members of a well-known city family that has operated a number of popular local businesses both in the Main Street area and in the Social District over the years. Gary Fernandes has made his mark in the city with major renovations of several historic properties including River Falls, the Jenckes family mansion on Social Street and the former city Court House building at Court Street. He began work on conversion of the circa 1934 St. Francis House to private apartments last winter in a project city officials lauded for ending the no-longer used building’s deepening disrepair.