As they hand the investigation over to federal safety regulators, local authorities released more information regarding an accident that left one painter dead Nov. 4 after falling from a Kingsbury, NY, bridge.
The Washington County Sherriff’s Office now says it believes the painting crew had completed its work and was in the process of dismantling a work platform when the accident occurred, Albany CBS affiliate WRGB reported Dec. 23.
Although four painters were rescued, a fifth, later identified as Rahssan Smith, 41, of Albany, NY, drowned in 10 feet of water.
Officials further indicated that the platform’s safety features had already been disassembled at the time of the incident, according to statements from those on the scene.
As reported earlier, painters employed by Avon, NY, bridge preservation firm P.S. Bruckel Inc., which had been contracted by the New York State Department of Transportation, were working on the Smiths Basin Bridge on Route 149, about 50 miles north of Albany, when a scaffold platform underneath it failed, spilling five workers into the Champlain Canal.
First responders pulled four of the workers from the water shortly after arrival, but Smith remained missing for approximately 90 minutes before his body was recovered from an area directly beneath the bridge.
At the time, preliminary investigations indicated one of the cables securing the platform to the bridge structure had come loose or broken, causing the platform to list suddenly, sending the workers into the canal.
Safety Measures Dismantled
Recent reports suggest that the project was complete, but the workers failed to take appropriate safety measures while in the process of taking down their equipment, according to The Post-Star.
“They were dismantling it, and from what we gathered somebody made a mistake and dismantled some safety measures that shouldn’t have been,” said Tony LeClaire, senior investigator for the sheriff’s office.
“We’re not sure how, but one of the cables either released or broke and sent all of the metal sheets (platform) tipping and they fell into the water.”
LeClaire noted that the team’s safety protocol required them to wear life jackets; Smith was not wearing one at the time of the accident, and it remains unclear whether the other painters were appropriately outfitted.
Moreover, they were supposed to be attached to a different cable for safety, he said.
“Our understanding is they were supposed to be wearing life preservers working over water,” LeClaire explained.
“I think they were trying to break it down quickly and overlooked some safety things.”
The sheriff’s office said that no criminal charges will be filed as a result of the accident.
Its preliminary findings are being handed over to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration for its ongoing investigation.
No additional findings have been released.