Recovery crews continued late Thursday to troll the Mississippi River at St. Louis in search of a bridge worker who fell into the river Wednesday and was presumed dead.
Andy Gammon, 35, of Park Hills, MO, was operating an aerial man lift from a barge about 150 feet upstream from the bridge construction site when the lift toppled into the water about 10:30 a.m., authorities said.
Photos: Traylor Brothers Inc.
|The $230 million bridge includes 12 drilled 11.5-foot shafts; 38,225 cubic yards of substructure concrete; 9,446 cubic yards of superstructure concrete; 8,188 tons of fabricated structural steel; 1,257 tons of stay cable strands; and 7,563 tons of reinforcing steel.|
Gammon, described as a carpenter, worked for the joint venture team of Massman Construction, of Kansas City, MO; Traylor Bros. Inc., of Evansville, IN; and St. Louis-based Alberici Enterprises (MTA).
The team is building a new $230 million bridge over the river from St. Louis, MO, to St. Clair County, IL. Construction began in 2010 and is scheduled to be completed in 2013.
With a 1,500-foot main span and 400-foot towers, the structure will be the third longest cable-stayed bridge in the United States. The project also includes several hundred million dollars of improvements to Interstate 70 and other roads on both sides of the river.
Currents Halt Search
Greg Horn, project director of the bridge project for the Missouri Department of Transportation, said Gammon’s lift had tipped into the river just north of a tower on the Illinois side of the river. Gammon was in the bucket at the time and was probably operating the equipment from there, Horn said.
Construction was temporarily halted, and U.S. Coast Guard and police and fire marine rescue and dive crews searched the river unsuccessfully for more than five hours Wednesday before strong currents forced them to suspend the effort. Divers later reported that the water was up to 30 feet deep, fast moving and murky, authorities said.
“There’s a strong, very strong current and you can't see anything in front of you,” said Horn.
Life Jacket Found
Workers told officials that Gammon had been wearing a life jacket when he fell. It was not immediately known what other protective gear Gammon had been using or if he had been tethered to the lift. A life jacket was recovered about 30 minutes after he disappeared, dispatchers told stltoday.com.
The search resumed for hours Thursday as Gammon’s wife and family waited on shore. Crews brought in sheets of metal to box in the search area and slow the current, KSDK-TV reported.
‘A Real Blow’
Horn said work on the project had been progressing on schedule and within budget. This was the project’s first major incident, he added.
The companies have not issued a statement on Gammon’s accident. Horn told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the contractors have "a superb track record" for safety, with few incidents and daily safety briefings.
|Work on the project began in 2010; completion is scheduled for next year. The main span is 1,500 feet long with 400-foot towers.|
“It’s one of their highest priorities, so this is a real blow to them," Horn said.
Inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were also on the scene to investigate.
The companies have a clean record with OSHA on the bridge project, but they have mixed records overall, including several fatal accidents.
OSHA cited Traylor on eight occasions from 2002 to 2006 for a variety of issues. The company was also cited as part of several joint ventures, including ventures with Massman. Alberici has also had a few cases with OSHA in the last decade.
Among the incidents OSHA has recorded:
In 2004, a Traylor carpenter was crushed to death when a concrete form into which he was drilling holes shifted and fell on him. OSHA initially cited the company for four serious violations and issued a $20,000 fine, but later dropped three counts and reduced the fine to $3,000.
Also in 2004, a Massman-Taylor joint venture was cited for one serious violation related to work over water. The count was later reduced to an other-than-serious general-duty violation, and the JV paid a $3,000 fine.
In 2005, an employee working for a Massman-Traylor project was killed by an 850-pound steel beam that was cut free from a cofferdam before it was adequately supported by a crane, OSHA records show. The company paid $1,875 for one serious safety violation.
Also in 2005, an Alberici pre-apprentice millwright lost his hand in a rail conveyor. The company was originally cited for one willful violation—OSHA’s highest level of infraction—and fined $63,000, but the case was settled at one serious violation and a $21,000 fine.
In 2006, a Traylor employee was crushed by the boom of a crawler crane that collapsed on a barge at a job site in Kentucky. The worker had been helping other employees move a 250-ton derrick from one barge to another, when the boom came loose from the ink well and struck the gantry of the crane. The company paid $4,500 for one serious general-duty violation in that case.
In 2009, OSHA cited Massman for two serious violations related to noise exposure, but the citations were later dropped.
In March 2011, Alberici was cited for four serious violations and fined $12,000. The case was later settled for one serious violation and a $1,000 fine.