Hundreds of grieving family members, friends and fellow union members said goodbye Tuesday to two young victims of the Tropicana parking garage accident in separate funerals in Northfield and Vineland.
Jimmy Bigelow, 29, of Egg Harbor Township, an ironworker, and Scott Pietrosante, 21, of Buena Vista Township, a cement mason, were two of the four men who died last week when five floors of the Atlantic City garage they – and hundreds of other workers – were building collapsed like a stack of concrete cards.
Robert Tartaglio Jr., of Galloway Township, a 42-yearold cement mason, was buried in Pomona on Monday after services that started Sunday. The family of the fourth victim, ironworker Michael Wittland, 53. of Pleasantville has scheduled visiting hours for tonight in Northfield and his funeral for Thursday morning at St. Peter Church In Pleasantville.
The crowd spilled out into the hallway of the Adams-Perfect Funeral Home In Northfield at Tuesday’s services for Bigelow. At the front of the hallway. when rows of extra chairs were set up to ease the overflow mourners Stopped to see pictures of important things in his life – several of Bigelow and his wife, Joleen; more of him and the 1-year-old son named after him; and one each of Jimmy Sr. riding a horse and sitting in the Chevrolet sedan he was turning into a race car.
His open casket also displayed several framed wedding pictures of Jimmy and Joleen, and certificates and plaques he earned from ironworkers Local 350. At. the center of the dozens of flower arrangements that surrounded the casket was a simple rectangle of white flowers with “Local 350” written in blue flowers in the middle; a flower arrangement in the hall was marked with a ribbon carrying the words, “Brother Ironworker.”
“He was one of the up-and-coming great members of our local,” said Will Paula, the union’s business manager. Who spoke to the crowd because the family of the victim – known as Deuce to his fellow workers- asked him to.
Pauls remembered Bigelow as a hard worker and a quiet guy – he said that after working together for several hours one day, Pauls asked the younger man to say something. “What do you want me to say?” Bigelow asked him. “I told him, ‘That’s good enough – I just wanted to know you could do it,'” Pauls recalled, getting a laugh from the crowd.
But his tone was completely serious when he told Joleen -the daughter of another ironworker and member of the local – that he now thinks of her as part of his own family, too.
“For all the ironworkers, I pledge to you that you will never be alone. We will never forget you,” Pauls said.
A few minutes later, Joleen got up to speak to the crowd – something she hadn’t planned to do, but felt she had to, she told them.
With her mother at her side to give her strength, she spoke tearfully, and briefly.
“Every single person in this room who hugged me,” she said, “I took a little bit of your strength. And that’s how I’m going to get through this.”
But Bigelow’s own mother, Margorie Griffiths, was overcome with grief and had to be taken away in an ambulance before she made it into the funeral home.
“She never got to see him,” said Bigelow’s aunt, Anna Mack of Egg Harbor Township. “She just couldn’t do it.”
Earlier in the day in Vineland, about 150 mourners turned out at St. Padre Pio Parish for services for Scott Pietrosantte, whose family nearly suffered a worse tragedy. His 25-year-old brother, John, was working near Scott at the unfinished Tropicana Casino and Resort parking garage last Thursday, but John walked off the floor to get a ladder. On his way back. he saw the top five floors of the l0-story building collapse, burying his younger brother.
Scott, who also followed his father, John, into the cement trade, was an avid hunter, fisherman and outdoor sportsman.
“He was a great kid – 21 years old, just getting his life together, with a good job and a fiancée.” said Bob DeMarchi, the victim’s second cousin.
“There are a lot of questions that there are no answers for,” the Rev. Peter Saporito told the crowd “The biggest question is, ‘Why?’ But now is not the time to blame. Now is the time to pray for Scott. and for the others who died or were injured,”
In a bit of good news, two workers hurt in the collapse were released from the hospital
Tuesday. That leaves six people still hospitalized, two in critical condition, and all in Atlantic City Medical Center’s City Division, an ACMC spokeswoman said.