Questions remain in Deerpark death

13 May

Some questions remain unanswered about the Toronto man who fell to his death over the weekend while working on a construction site inside Dragon Springs.

Any answers may remain behind the gates of the religious community on Galley Hill Road. Dragon Springs, as a nonprofit religious organization with a volunteer workforce, is not subject to the same safety regulations as private companies.

“We are a religious community,” said a Dragon Springs man yesterday, who wouldn’t identity himself. “We do not give information to the public.”

Janin Liu, 54, fell 16 feet to his death while working on a construction project. State police say Liu was trying to grab a sheet of plywood when he fell. Authorities say they do not suspect foul play.

An autopsy wasn’t performed, since Liu’s family objected on religious grounds, state police say.

There won’t be an investigation into the accident, either. The Town of Deerpark shut down the work site pending an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. But OSHA only has jurisdiction over employers and employees.

Liu was a volunteer, OSHA officials said yesterday.

Dragon Springs is a religious sanctuary for practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice similar to Buddhism. The Falun Gong has faced persecution in China. Estimates of the number of people behind Dragon Springs’ fence range from 40 to hundreds. The Dragon Springs organization also owns several other properties on Galley Hill Road, records indicate.

Deerpark Supervisor Gary Flieger says the town’s building department doesn’t have the training to conduct an OSHA-like inspection or jurisdiction regarding worker-safety codes at what he calls a “major construction site” at Dragon Springs. Earlier this year town and Dragon Spring officials clashed over access to the facility but have since resolved their differences.

Flieger says town building inspector Robert Emersonhad, in the past, expressed concerns regarding safety to Dragon Springs officials. Emerson could not be reached for comment yesterday.

(Times Herald-Record, May 06, 2008)

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