Divers have recovered the body of a 35-year-old married father of two children who fell to his death Wednesday while working on a Mississippi River bridge project at St. Louis.
Andy Gammon, of Park Hills, MO, was pronounced dead at the scene late Thursday.
Traylor Brothers Inc.
|Andy Gammon was working from an aerial lift that toppled off a barge in the river. A friend questioned whether Gammon should have been tethered to the lift when working over water.|
Preliminary findings indicated that Gammon died from drowning, said St. Clair County (IL) Coroner Rick Stone. But a final ruling on the cause of death will take six to eight weeks, Stone’s office said Monday (April 2).
Divers pulled Gammon’s body from the river late Thursday near the barges where he fell in about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. His family had waited on shore throughout the two-day search.
Authorities said he had been working from the basket of an extended four-wheeled aerial lift on a barge when the lift toppled into the river.
Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and others are still investigating the accident, police said Gammon’s body had been found still tethered to the lift—a safety precaution that a friend and occasional co-worker is now questioning.
Josh Hulsey, a friend who sometimes worked with Gammon, said such tie-ins may stop a fall over dry land, but could prove a deadly restraint under water. Hulsey said Gammon did not like working over water.
“When the lift goes in the river, you’re in trouble,” Hulsey told KSDK-TV. “With a 12 mile per hour current, an eight-foot lanyard, it’s just going to push you right away….”
“It’s a pretty dangerous job on dry ground,” Hulsey said. “When you put it over the river, you can times that by five or six or 10, because everything is moving.”
Currents Impede Search
Strong currents halted the search Wednesday for Gammon, who worked as a carpenter for Massman Traylor and Alberici (MTA), a joint venture of Massman Construction, Traylor Brothers and Alberici Constructors that is building the main span of the bridge over the river.
On Thursday, MTA provided equipment to drive sheet piles 12 to 50 feet long into the river, to slow the current and aid in the search for Gammon. The sheet piles were driven 70 feet down into the ground and 25 feet across, Greg Horn, project director for the Missouri Department of Transportation, told reporters.
The search drew two local dive rescue teams, the Red Cross, and a variety of police and fire responders.
Mayor Alvin L. Parks commended the recovery teams for “being top-notch professionals and dedicated to their craft.”
MTA has issued no statement about the accident.
MTA 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.
Time-lapse video from MODOT shows the project’s progress, including the set-up of the lifts used in the process.
The companies have a clean record with OSHA on the bridge project, but they have mixed records overall, including several fatal accidents.
‘A Really Good Guy’
“He was a really good guy, a good family man, a good person, and a hard worker,” Hulsey told KSDK. “You hate to lose somebody like that.”