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Concrete Training Goes Fatally Awry

Friday, December 6, 2013

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One construction worker has died and two others are injured, one critically, after a retaining wall they were using to practice concrete work collapsed in upstate New York, authorities said.

Timothy Lang, 53, was killed, and Scott Winkler, 50, and Rafael Zakota, 37, were injured in the accident Monday (Dec. 2).

The three work for Halmar International, a Nanuet, NY-based construction company contracted by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection for work on an interconnection of the Catskill and Delaware aqueducts.

Halmar retaining wall collapse via ABC 7

One worker was killed and two others were injured after a retaining wall they were practicing concrete work on collapsed Monday (Dec. 2). OSHA is investigating.

Winkler was airlifted to a hospital and remains in critical condition; Zakota was taken to another area hospital and released the same day, reported.

Concrete Pour

The workers had been constructing a replica of the Catskill aqueduct and were pouring concrete when the wood-and-concrete retaining wall collapsed. The replica was being built at Halmar's three-acre site in Maybrook, NY.

Halmar was awarded the $21.2 million project for the Shaft 4 connection of the Delaware high-pressure aqueduct into the Catskill aqueduct and underground valve building in Gardiner, NY. The work includes excavation for interconnection piping, pouring a concrete mud mat, constructing an L-shaped sub surface structure, and extensive piping.

The company will also manage subcontractors for transmission lines, painting, concrete/rebar, membrane waterproofing, core drilling, and other tasks.

Worker Pinned

Fire officials said that the two injured workers had been freed within minutes, but Lang was pinned under the wall, Hudson Valley YNN reported.

"It took several hours to lift the retaining wall, and the individual was deceased at the time he was recovered," said Town of Montgomery Police Chief Arnold Amthor.

Flickr / NYC Mayor's Office

Work on the project began in January and is expected to be completed in 2021. The project includes building a 2.5-mile bypass 600 feet underground to replace a leaking tunnel section.

Ted Fitzgerald, a spokesperson for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said the department would not discuss the specifics of ongoing investigations, according to

"OSHA will be looking to determine whether or not there were violations of workplace safety standards in connection with this incident and the death of the worker and the injury of the other workers," Fitzgerald told

"At this point, it is too early to estimate a completion date for OSHA inspection, but OSHA will be back and forth on the site as the needs of the inspection dictate," Fitzgerald said.

OSHA has six months to complete a fatality investigation.

'Very Shocked and Very Saddened'

Chris Larsen, a principal of Halmar International, told that the company was "very shocked and very saddened."

"Right now, everything is under full investigation to determine the cause of the accident," Larsen said.

"At this time, I can't really speculate what the cause was. We are conducting our own investigation as well as OSHA. Hopefully, as soon as possible, we reach some conclusions and will be able to understand what happened."

Catskill Delaware aqueduct project
Halmar International

Halmar was awarded a $21.2 million project by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection to work on an interconnection of the Catskill and Delaware aqueducts.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the workers involved in (Monday's) accident as well as their families and loved ones," said DEP spokesperson Adam Bosch. "OSHA will lead a thorough investigation into the circumstances that led to the accident."

600 Feet Below Ground

More than half of New York City's drinking water comes from the Delaware aqueduct, drawn from reservoirs in the Catskill Mountains. Workers are building a 2.5-mile-long bypass tunnel about 600 feet below ground to circumvent a leaking portion of the aqueduct.

The tunnel project is the central component of the city's $1.5 billion Water for the Future program, which also includes improvements to the Catskill aqueduct and rehabilitation of the Queens Groundwater System.

Cracked Lining

In most areas, the 85-mile-long Delaware aqueduct is lined only with reinforced concrete, but two sections of the tunnel that run through limestone formations were lined with steel, because limestone is more likely to cause wear and tear on the lining, according to the DEP.

Flickr / NYC Mayor's Office

A site visit last month by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and DEP officials found the project ahead of schedule and under budget.

An ongoing investigation of the aqueduct's structural integrity has found small cracks where the steel lining ended.

Work on the project started in January and is expected to continue through 2021.

"The Delaware Aqueduct is a primary artery in our water delivery system, and engineers have dedicated many years to locating the leaking portions of the tunnel and designing a cost-effective solution," said DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland, who visited the project Nov. 4 with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Deputy Commissioner Kathryn Mallon.

Mallon said after the visit that the project was "ahead of schedule and under budget."


Tagged categories: Accidents; Concrete; Construction; Contractors; Fatalities; OSHA; Steel; Tunnel

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