Andrew Yoder never did anything halfway. Not as a teen who memorized whole books of the New Testament, not as a Marine Corps reservist who became an accomplished sharpshooter, and not as a young man who was instantly smitten with the woman he would eventually marry.
Mr. Yoder, 31, had a way of disarming people with his humor, drawing them in and including them in the joke, all while living his faith, working hard and doing what was right instead of what was easy, said his twin brother and one of his oldest friends.
Mr. Yoder, who joined the Seattle-based Iron Workers Local 86 in 2008 and worked his way up from tying rebar to raising and dismantling construction cranes, was one of four people killed Saturday afternoon when a tower crane collapsed onto Mercer Street in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. Mr. Yoder, of North Bend, and Travis Corbet, a newlywed ironworker from Oregon, were killed as they worked to dismantle the crane.
Alan Justad, a longtime City of Seattle employee and the father of three grown daughters, and Sarah Wong, a 19-year-old college student from Southern California, were crushed inside separate cars when a section of the crane plummeted to the street.
The state Department of Labor & Industries is investigating five companies involved in the use or dismantling of the crane at Google’s new campus: general contractor GLY Construction, subcontractors Northwest Tower Crane Service and Omega Morgan, crane owner Morrow Equipment, and Seaburg Construction, which employed the operator of the tower crane before workers began to dismantle it.
Mr. Yoder’s family and wide circle of friends are heartbroken by his death but are committed to supporting his wife, Andrea, and ensuring their two young sons, ages 5 and 3, grow up knowing how much their father loved them.
“Everybody is devastated. It comes in waves. I can’t say I’ve fully come to terms with it yet,” said Andrew’s identical twin, Aaron Yoder.
The twin brothers, the oldest of five boys raised and home-schooled in Silverton, Oregon, decided that whatever they did for work, it had to be something that mattered. Aaron Yoder, who served with the U.S. Army in Iraq, Afghanistan and Oman, became a police officer in Vancouver, Washington. His twin, younger by three minutes, served as a tank commander in the Marine Corps reserves and became an ironworker, inspired by a family friend and iconic photos of the workers who built New York City and Chicago in the early 1900s.
“He mentioned it a time or two, that it was a dangerous job. But that was ancillary to what he was about doing,” Aaron Yoder said of his brother. “He took so much pride in it. He said he and his buddies had a small hand in changing the Seattle skyline with some of these buildings they were making.”
Aaron was with his twin at a friend’s apartment complex on Mercer Island when Mr. Yoder met Andrea in 2007. By then, Aaron had decided to return to Oregon but his brother chose to stay, attending trade school and becoming a journeyman ironworker in 2012.
“He made his mind up really quickly that she was someone he wanted to get to know and pursue. He was in it for the long haul,” Aaron Yoder said of his brother and sister-in-law.
Mr. Yoder married Andrea in January 2010.
The twins spoke by phone every day, and most of their conversations revolved around funny things Mr. Yoder’s sons did and all the spots he planned to take the boys hunting and fishing when they got older, Aaron Yoder said.
“He would always mention how bright his children were. He couldn’t believe he had a hand in making kids that were this smart. He was a great dad,” said Aaron. “He was a follower of God. He loved his wife and his kids so much and he really loved his country.”
In an emailed statement, Andrea Yoder wrote: “Andrew was my heart and my person. I can’t remember the last time we went 24 hours without talking. The void left by his sudden and tragic death has made it hard to breathe. I know this void will never go away but I am thankful for the almost 12 years we did get to have together and for how he loved me and our boys.”
Micah Swan, who met the twins at a church summer camp when they were kids, said Mr. Yoder would come up with nicknames for friends and coin silly phrases to tease people and make them feel included in their circle’s inside jokes.
“When he met people, when he included them in his life, he took a genuine interest in them. It was just part of his character,” said Swan.
But Mr. Yoder also had a way of baring his heart and openly discussing his struggles and dreams, Swan said. If Mr. Yoder had any regrets, it was that he had to travel so much for work, away from his wife and sons, he said.
On the job, Swan said Mr. Yoder earned a reputation as a reliable, disciplined worker.
“He would argue with people about doing things the right way, to the point he’d walk away from the job. Even missing the gym wasn’t an option. There was no cutting corners,” said Swan. “It was how he exemplified his life — his relationships, his job, his faith, even his physical fitness. He wanted to be good at whatever he did.”
In lieu of flowers, Mr. Yoder’s extended family is seeking donations to a fund to support Andrea Yoder and her sons. Tax-deductible donations can by made by visiting calvarymtsi.com/index.php/give and noting “Yoder Family” in the comments section.
Editor’s note: A comment thread was erroneously attached to this story when it was first published. It has since been removed, in accordance with our policies on stories of this nature.