ATLANTA — A father and husband died in a freak accident after a retaining wall at his home collapsed. His family is devastated by the tragedy.
This list of adjectives to describe Albert Omstead include selfless, a rock, unique, and unusually charismatic. His brother-in-law Scott Wachtel added genuine to that list.
“He had his own kind of style, his own mojo, and he cared for everyone. Not fake cared but genuinely cared,” said Wachtel.
Omstead may have been genuine and a real charmer, but he was undoubtedly under the spell of five young humans.
“His children were the center of his universe," Wachtel explained.
And that universe, just lost its brightest star.
“He wore a seatbelt, he didn’t smoke, he got his COVID vaccine,” said Wachtel. “He did everything he needed to do to keep himself safe and then something like this happens that so hard to predict.”
It was July 19, another normal rainy day in Atlanta. Except this day, turned abnormal when Omstead returned from work to do what many would have done: get to work on his home and try to stop a leak near his garage.
“Instantaneously, the entire thing just collapsed on top of him,” Wachtel said quietly.
A retaining wall fell onto Omstead unexpectedly, as he wasn’t working on the wall that collapsed, but simply standing near it.
“The garage door was closed and there was a van parked right here (in front of garage), so he couldn’t run this way (towards garage), he couldn’t run this way (away from garage) because the rest of the wall was collapsing over here, so he had nowhere to go.”
Que, Omstead’s wife, shared that a neighbor tried frantically to help her remove heavy cinder blocks off of him. Firefighters used whatever they could find nearby to get him free, including a car jack near the garage.
The car jack is still there, trapped under concrete, two weeks later.
“It’s difficult to see this right now,” Wachtel said, staring at the mess of dirt and cement. “Especially the car jack right there because it just reminds me of the action of someone having to extract my brother in law from this.”
Omstead died of his injuries. He was 38 and left behind his wife, four step-children that he loved like his own, and his two-year-old son, who all lovingly called him Papi.
“It saddens me to think that he’s so young that he probably won’t even remember his dad beyond pictures and videos,” said Wachtel.
Wachtel reflected, “Had he gone out there five minutes earlier or five minutes later, our world would be entirely different place right now.”
His memory will always be the center of his family’s universe. The family hopes anyone else with a retaining wall is careful after days of rain. Omstead's sister started a fundraiser for his widow and five children.
Wachtel said the family is focused on Que and the children and are keeping their arms firmly wrapped around them, as Albert had done before his passing.
“He was their rock,” said Wachtel. “He supported their needs and put their needs first, whether it be emotionally, financially, everything.”
His wife said she wouldn’t have made it the past two weeks had it not been for the support of her family, her neighbors, and her children.