A 24-year-old man fell to his death at the former Seagram's plant in Dundalk this week, becoming the second person to die in an accident at the vacant facility since 2012.
Baltimore County police say Tony King Jr. appeared to have fallen 14 feet from a walkway inside a building at the property on Sollers Point Road. Police were dispatched to the site Monday and found him dead when they arrived, said police spokeswoman Cpl. Cathy Batton. Investigators believe his death was accidental.
The abandoned plant has long been a source of complaints from neighbors who say it is a safety hazard and an eyesore, and numerous fires have broken out there in recent years. In July, a man suffered critical injuries after jumping three stories to escape a three-alarm blaze. In August 2012, Patrick Miskimon, a 19-year-old Dundalk resident, died after falling from scaffolding in one of the buildings.
King's sister, Melissa Johnson, is questioning why the buildings are still standing after so many incidents.
"If this happened before, why does the owner still have this building up?" said Johnson, who lives in Pennsylvania. "I don't want to see anyone else go through this hurt and pain. ... Our baby brother is gone."
King grew up in Baltimore's Cherry Hill neighborhood, Johnson said. He was homeless in recent years, she said. He had previously been convicted of burglary, and he had a burglary case pending at the time of his death, according to court records.
Johnson said she does not blame the property owner for her brother's death but believes the buildings should be demolished so they do not pose a danger to anyone else.
"Tony made the choice to go to this building," Johnson said. "But still, he died because of the condition of this building — this building that should've been taken down."
Sollers Investors LLC owns the 12-acre site, which has not been used as a distillery since about 1992. Developer John Vontran, managing partner of the company, said he does not bear any responsibility for the deaths that have occurred there because it's clear from signs and fences there that people should not trespass.
"You're on that property at your own risk and not with my permission," he said, adding that he regularly fixes holes in the fences that surround the site.
Baltimore County code enforcement chief Lionel Van Dommelen said the last complaint the county received was about graffiti in August. The county can only step in to demolish a building if it poses "an immediate public threat," and officials do not consider the site to be one, he said.
"As long as it's secured, it doesn't pose an immediate threat to the public," Van Dommelen said.
Police spokeswoman Elise Armacost said evidence in the case suggests people had been inside scavenging for metal, but police do not know what King was doing there.
According to police documents, a man walking through the warehouse found King's body about 8:45 a.m. and alerted a construction crew in the neighborhood because he did not have a phone to call 911. The man told police he walked that path every day.
The building was secured when police arrived, according to the documents.
Sollers Investors LLC tried to buy the North Point Government Center in Dundalk last year, but county officials chose another company as the winning bidder. Vontran had hoped to build big-box stores at the government center site and move the county offices to the former Seagram's site.
Now he is looking into developing apartments or townhouses, he said.
Vontran said he has renewed a county demolition permit he first received last January but has no timetable for when he will knock down the Seagram's buildings.
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