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Bridge Inspector’s Fatal Fall Probed

Friday, January 25, 2013

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Federal authorities are investigating the death of an engineer who plunged 140 feet in a fall from a New York City bridge he was inspecting earlier this month.

Paul Schisler, 54, of Bridgewater, NJ, fell to his death from the High Bridge in the Bronx about 10:10 a.m. Jan. 15, authorities said.

Paul Schisler

Paul Schisler was "a very nice man, a very smart man," a co-worker said. The engineer's death is under investigation.

New York's oldest standing bridge, the High Bridge (also known as the Aqueduct Bridge) connects Upper Manhattan and the Bronx. Once the most celebrated part of the famed Old Croton Aqueduct, the bridge has been closed since 1970 due to disrepair, but it is now the focus of a $61.7 million renovation project by the city's Department of Parks and Recreation.

Schisler was walking the old bridge on an inspection when he fell, authorities said. He landed on dirt next to some train tracks.

Schisler was transported to Lincoln Hospital by emergency responders but could not be saved, reports said.

Investigation Underway

Schisler was employed by Schiavone Construction LLC, of Seacaucus, NJ. Founded in 1956, the firm is a well-known heavy construction contractor in the Northeastern United States. The company is heading the bridge rehabilitation, which began in the summer of 2012.

The circumstances of Schisler's accident were not available, and no one has said if he was wearing fall protection.

High Bridge masonry High Bridge
NYC Parks & Recreation

The High Bridge's steel arch dates to 1928. The bridge was closed in 1970 but is undergoing a $61.7 million rehabilitation.

“I’m trying to figure out how it happened,” a member of Schisler's construction crew told the New York Post. “I don't know what happened. And the guys with him don't know."

Schiavone did not respond to requests for comment, but the company issued a statement to the New York Daily News saying that it was cooperating in the investigation.

“Schiavone has a strong safety program, and there is no higher priority than the safety of its employees and the public,” the statement said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with our employee, and his family, friends and co-workers."

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened an investigation into the incident, a spokesman confirmed, but the agency typically does not comment until its report is complete.

OSHA records show no inspections or citations of Schiavone Construction in the past five years.

About the Bridge

The High Bridge, a single steel arch of about 450 feet, was built in 1928, replacing five masonry arches dating from the original 1848 structure. The bridge was part of the Old Croton Aqueduct, which carried water from the Croton River to supply New York City 10 miles to the south. The entire bridge is more than 2,000 feet long.

High Bridge deck
NYC Parks & Recreation

The renovation includes rust removal, repainting of the steel, and resetting the deck.

By the mid-1960s, the bridge was failing. In 1970, it was closed. In November 2006, however, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced that the city would renovate and reopen the bridge. The reopening had been set for 2009, then 2013.

On Jan. 11, 2013—just days before Schisler's accident—Bloomberg's office said the reopening would be pushed back to the summer of 2014.

The work includes cleaning 165 years of soot from the stone, repainting the steel span, and resetting the brick deck. Rust will be removed, steel beams and walkway tie rods replaced, and new mortar installed in all of the stone and brick joints.

A member of Schisler's crew described the victim as "a very nice man, a very smart man."

He told the New York Post, "I'm really bothered about this—for a working man to lose his life. How do you tell a mother and kids their father isn't coming home?"


Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Fall protection; Fatalities; General contractors; Government contracts

Comment from jerry baxter, (1/30/2013, 6:46 AM)

It's very sad when these accidents happen. So quickly one life is taken and others broken. Working on bridges and tanks most of my life, know and seen others fall. Unfortunately, it always seems,to be the victim that somehow caused the incident. Apathy usually plays a big part of this kind of accidents. Becoming indifferent to our surroundings.

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