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Bridge Painter's Body Recovered

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

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The body of a missing bridge painter who fell into the Columbia River on Oct. 7 while working on the Lewis and Clark Bridge was recovered Saturday afternoon (Nov. 4).

Authorities pulled the body of Charles William "Bill" Wiley Jr., 40, from the river about six to eight miles downstream from the bridge, where he had been painting when he fell.

Wiley fell while painting the span between Longview, WA, and Rainier, OR. He was presumed drowned at the time.

Bill Wiley

Bill Wiley was from Mississippi, but locals remembered him as "one of us."

Wiley worked for Odyssey/Geronimo JV, which has been painting the bridge since mid-2010 under a $33.7 million contract with the Washington State Department of Transportation. The painting is the final stage in a major rehabilitation that included deck replacement.

The company did not respond Monday (Nov. 5) to a request for comment.

Prior Deaths

Wiley was the third Odyssey employee killed on a bridge job in recent years.

Lewis & Clark Bridge
Odyssey Contracting / WSDOT

Odyssey/Geronimo JV has a $33.7 million contract to paint the Lewis and Clark Bridge.

In December 2010, Odyssey painter Ercio Gasques, 29, of Newark, NJ, died in a 40-foot fall from the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge in Maine. After being cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Odyssey paid a $5,600 fine for the death on the $9.3 million contract.

"Somebody screwed up," Odyssey Contracting (also known as Odyssey Painting) company president Stavros Semanderes said after the accident.

In October 2009, another employee fell 124 feet to his death while working on the McKees Rock Bridge in McKees Rock, PA. Michael L'Hereaux, 54, of Ohio was conducting abrasive blasting under the Pittsburgh end of the bridge and fell from a two-point suspension scaffold.

McKees Rock Bridge, PA

In 2009, another Odyssey employee fell more than 100 feet to his death while performing abrasive blasting on the McKees Rocks Bridge in Pennsylvania.

Authorities later found that the platform's cable supports were damaged during blasting.

The company paid a fine of $12,600.

In September, OSHA initiated an inspection of Geronimo Painting, of Lisbon, OH. The company was fined $7,600 for three serious violations: two related to lead and one related to working over or near water. In October, OSHA cited the company for one serious violation related to general requirements and issued an initial fine of $2,800. That case is still pending.

Investigation Underway

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries is investigating Wiley's death.

The nature of Wiley's fall protection was not immediately available.

Lewis & Clark Bridge inspection

WSDOT inspectors Nathan Retherford (left) and Brad Fisher walk along the top of the bridge to take a closer look at the project’s progress over the summer.

The local Sheriff's Office said told KOIN-TV several weeks after the accident that it was "still not exactly known how or why the safety equipment that Mr. Wiley was wearing did not prevent his fall."

Wiley was from Mississippi, but "became local to us," a friend told the televsion station.

"He wasn't somebody from out of town anymore," Kelly Crape said. "He was one of us."

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article appeared in Monday's PaintSquare News. The comments dated Nov. 6 were posted in response to that article.



Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Fall protection; Fatalities; Industrial Contractors; Lead; OSHA; Painting Contractor

Comment from Robin Neilson, (11/6/2012, 12:20 PM)

How come it looks like the DOT guy in the picture is not clipped off?

Comment from Mary Chollet, (11/6/2012, 12:52 PM)

Good question! We have passed it along to WSDOT and hope they will respond.

Comment from shane hirvi, (11/6/2012, 12:55 PM)

He has his lanyard pushing in front of his left hand--both of the WSDOT inspectors do. My thoughts and prayers go out to the mans family.

Comment from Heidi Sause, (11/6/2012, 2:42 PM)

@Robin Neilson, thank you for your concern! My name is Heidi, and I took this photo on top of the bridge last September. Both inspectors are tied off – in fact, we require workers to be tied off 100% of the time, in accordance with Washington State Safety Standards (WAC 296-155). The bridge cable is obstructing the view, but both gentlemen are pushing their safety lines with their left hands and each are wearing a complete fall arrest system with a full body harness and deceleration device. Additionally, crews begin each shift with a safety briefing. Safety is our number one priority, and it’s incorporated into everything we do.

Comment from shane hirvi, (11/7/2012, 4:59 AM)

I had the chance to work with several WSDOT inspectors and engineers on phase I of this project--Brad Fisher, Nils Robe, Lenard Cade, Ty Hillebrand, Rob Mistic and Devin Reck to name a few. Going into these projects you never know what to expect out of state inspectors and only working on four previous bridges prior to this project I was a bit green. I was the QC on the project and got to know these guys pretty well for the year or so I was out there. The L&C is a big old truss bridge with some pretty exotic lattice, a bazzillion rivets and some tough to get to places on the piers. During phase I it was a spot blast and overcoat which specified a fungicide application, water wash, spot blasting, feathering the transition areas of existing costing and blasted steel, prime coat, mid coat, top coat. It was a very inspection heavy project. Inspecting for 100% coverage was always pretty thrilling(heavy sarcasm). It took about two days to "stripe" a containment so after a day and four or Five cups of coffee into day two I'd start my qc inspection. Usually after lunch I'd give the boys a call for the qa inspection. There would always be 1-3 WSDOT inspectors to provide a quality assurance inspection. Each inspector was armed with a flashlight, mirror and a piece of chalk to mark holidays or runs and sags that I missed during my qc inspection. We had a painter behind each one that would immediately take care of whatever defect was found. I got into a shouting match or two with Rob and once with Brad but then from time to time I can be a bit of a hot head. It's hard to inspect some of these more complex bridge structures and tempers can get heated when you have an off day or your touch-up man paints around the holiday you marked. We also experienced a major coatings failure resulting from a formulation change, a weird spec, potentially differing site conditions and the difficulties associated with painting in the pacific northwest. I respect these guys they work as hard as any inspectors I've come across. They know the testing involved, they know how to administer difficult projects in less than ideal conditions. I'm proud to have worked on this project with these guys and I'm sorry for the tragedy that occurred on this project. I know that this has to be heartbreaking for WSDOT, Odessey/Geronimo and the freinds and Family of Mr. Wiley. Again my thoughts and prayers go out to y'all and please tie yourselves off out there.

Comment from Robin Neilson, (11/7/2012, 12:28 PM)

Thanks for the feed back. Never would want anyone to get hurt.

Comment from Mary Chollet, (11/8/2012, 10:59 AM)

Editor's Note: Due to an error in OSHA's records, this article incorrectly reports that OSHA closed a case against Geronimo Painting earlier this fall involving three serious citations and a $7,600 fine. In fact, although those citations and fines were issued, Geronimo advises that it is contesting that case, and it remains pending. When contacted by PaintSquare, an OSHA spokeswoman confirmed Thursday that the agency had erroneously classified the case as "closed" in its records. As previously reported, a second OSHA case involving Geronimo is also pending. Geronimo's work sites have also been inspected by OSHA in the past with no citations issued. PaintSquare News regrets the error.

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