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Laid-off Costa Mesa worker jumps to his death

March 17, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Tragedy in Costa Mesa as a city employee leaps to his death just as city officials begin handing out layoff notices to hundreds of workers. There was a vigil Thursday night for that young employee.

There were hugs and tears as coworkers and friends gathered at the scene of the tragedy Thursday night. Candles and flowers mark the spot where the 29-year-old took his life.

"He was loyal to his job, he was loyal to his family and friends. There's a big sense of loyalty here and we all take great pride in what we do for the city," said Timothy Sun, a coworker.

Friends say Huy Pham was a dedicated Costa Mesa city employee, and the bread-winner for his family, taking care of his sick mother.

The 29-year-old maintenance worker was one of more than 200 employees set to receive pink slips Thursday from the city.

Pham never received his. Just before 3:30 p.m. Thursday, he went to the top of City Hall and jumped to his death.

"We knew we were getting our layoff notices. A lot of people saw it coming, but you don't see this coming, you don't see one of your fellow employees, your friends, ending his life in such a tragic way," said coworker Henry Granados.

Earlier this month the Costa Mesa City Council voted to outsource 18 city services to cover a multimillion-dollar budget deficit, but many workers say the move makes no sense since it could end up costing more.

Thursday's tragedy has only heightened tensions at City Hall as many were offended by the actions of Costa Mesa Mayor Gary Monahan.

A photograph taken by the general manager of the Orange County Employees Association shows Monahan in a kilt outside his bar, Skosh Monahan's, just 90 minutes after the suicide.

Eyewitness News tried to catch up with the mayor Thursday night, but bar employees said he was on his way to City Hall.

At the scene of the tragedy, there was no sign of the mayor, only distraught friends who say this should never have happened.

"I showed great concerns and told the council members and told the different people that I have great concerns for the health and safety of employees, and something like this happens," said Costa Mesa City Employees Association President Helen Nenadal.

Crisis counselors will be on hand at City Hall Friday.