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Worker Killed in Overpass Collapse

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

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A California demolition worker tethered to a railroad bridge was killed this weekend when “something came loose where it wasn’t supposed to” and the bridge collapsed onto a freeway, authorities said.

Okesene Faasalele, 59, of Long Beach, CA, was pulled down when the Pachappa Railroad Overcrossing buckled and broke about 3:15 a.m. Sunday (May 18) onto the eastbound 91 Freeway in Riverside, CA, Caltrans reported.

91 Freeway accident 91 Freeway accident
Photos: KTLA screen grabs

Authorities said the victim, a subcontractor had been cutting on the bridge when it collapsed onto the freeway.

Authorities told the media that Faasalele worked for a construction subcontractor based in Metairie, LA. The company was working on the project for general contractor Sema Construction of Irvine, reports said.

However, a woman who answered the phone Monday at Hard Rock Construction said that that company was not involved. Sema Construction did not respond to a request for comment. The discrepancy could not be immediately clarified.

A Caltrans spokeswoman told KTLA-TV that family members had been working with Faasalele when the bridge fell. The freeway was closed at the time, and no other injuries were reported.

Caltrans spokesowman Michelle Profant told the Los Angeles Times that Faasalele had been attached to the bridge by a harness and was cutting part of the structure in half when it "buckled and twisted under him."

91 Freeway Accident

"Something came loose where it wasn’t supposed to," a Caltrans spokeswoman said. "And he rode the bridge down. Before it hit the ground, it twisted, and it catapulted him into the pavement."

Caltrans spokeswoman Terri Kasinga told the Press-Enterprise that Faasalele had been tethered to the bridge "because he was part of the demolition process. Something came loose where it wasn’t supposed to. And he rode the bridge down. Before it hit the ground, it twisted, and it catapulted him into the pavement."

”Faasalele was pronounced dead at an area hospital about 45 minutes later.

The freeway was reopened Sunday afternoon.

Profant told the Press-Enterprise that the accident would not slow the six-mile, $232 million project to widen the freeway. The project began in 2012 and is to be completed in late summer 2015.

Caltrans and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were investigating the incident.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Demolition; Fatalities; OSHA; Rail

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