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Bridge Projects in MO, AZ, PA Kill 3

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

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Devastating bridge construction accidents in three states have claimed the lives of three workers in 10 days, authorities report.

The victims all worked for different bridge contractors under contract to state Departments of Transportation.

In Missouri, an employee of Chicago-based Walsh Construction Co. was killed June 10 on a barge downstream from the Blanchette Bridge.

The death of Patrick J. Bray, 51, of Jerseyville, IL, was the third by a Walsh employee in 14 months and the second on a Walsh bridge project. A third Walsh bridge project was shut down temporarily last year after a series of serious, but non-fatal, accidents.

Patrick Bray
Family photo

Patrick Bray, of Walsh Construction, planned to retire July 1, when he would be able to provide health insurance for his granddaughters. He was killed June 10.

In Arizona, meanwhile, one employee of Utah-based Ralph L. Wadsworth Construction was killed and another was seriously injured June 19 when steel and wood beams collapsed on them during a freeway overpass construction project in Mesa. Steven Ariston, 43 of Peoria, died in the accident; Alejandro Meraz, 20, was reported in stable condition later at an area hospital.

The same day, a bridge inspector was crushed to death on a Pennsylvania overpass project. Tripat Mann, 58, of Scott Township, worked for M.A. Beech Corp., near Pittsburgh.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating all of the accidents.

None of the companies immediately responded Monday (June 24) to a request for comment.

Missouri: Struck by Drum

Walsh Construction was working for the Missouri Department of Transportation on a $64 million bridge rehabilitation project when the accident occurred.

The Blanchette Bridge carries Interstate 70 over the Missouri River. MoDOT announced in May that the year-long project was on track to be completed two months ahead of its Nov. 2 deadline, clearing the way for Walsh to collect a $40,000-a-day bonus totaling up to $1.2 million.

According to a statement released by Walsh to other news outlets, Bray died of injuries after being struck by a 55-gallon drum. The Coast Guard administered CPR, but Bray was pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said.

Blanchette Bridge construction

The $64 million Blanchette Bridge project may beat its one-year deadline by two months. The MoDOT contract includes a $40,000-a-day bonus for early completion.

Bray's brother Bob told a local newspaper that Patrick Bray had planned to retire July 1—a date he needed to make to provide health insurance for his granddaughters.

"He worked hard his entire life, but he didn't mind doing it," Bob Bray told the Riverfront Times.

Peter T. Glimo, the company's attorney, said in a statement: "Walsh Construction Company is deeply saddened to report that an accident on the Blanchette Bridge Rehab over the Missouri River Project took the life of a valued employee."

Troubled Time

Walsh Construction has had a troubled 14 months. In April 2012, the Connecticut Department of Transportation ordered work suspended for a week on the Moses Wheeler Bridge while Walsh workers on the $230 million project attended safety classes.

That order followed what Connecticut DOT called the fourth “completely preventable” accident in several months: a crane collapse that left a worker with broken ribs and a concussion.

Grieving worker

A co-worker on a Pennsylvania bridge project is overcome after an inspector was killed.

One week later, a highway worker employed by Walsh in Crown Point, IN, was struck and killed by an excavator on a job site in Northeast Indianapolis. David Anderson, 33, was pinned against concrete barriers that he was placing near a highway ramp, authorities said.

Two weeks after Anderson's death, lift operator Roger Lee Cox, 50, was critically injured in a lift on a $131 million Indiana bridge rehab project. He died several days later.

In March of this year, Walsh was fined $10 million for problems related to construction at O'Hare International Airport. The contractor already had made $26 million in repairs to defective steel and welds on the project.

Arizona: Supports Collapse

In Arizona, the workers were struck by the early-morning collapse of a temporary steel and wood bridge support structure, authorities said.

Mesa Fire Capt. Forrest Smith told Fox News that the support beams were being removed from the concrete portion of a bridge that is part of State Route 24.

AZ Bridge Support Collapse Bridge Support Collapse

Four workers were under the support when it gave way. Two escaped, one was killed, and one was critically injured.

Doug Nintzel, of the Arizona Department of Transportation, said, "Crews were in the process of lowering falsework or temporary supports as part of the bridge construction and tragically, a section of those supports came down on the workers."

Four workers were in the area; two managed to get out of the way, authorities said. Ariston was trapped beneath the rubble, which included 6,600-pound steel beams.

The bridge, which is considered sound, is part of a $70 million-plus project to build the Gateway Freeway connecting the Loop 202 freeway with Ellsworth Road by the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway airport.

Pennsylvania: 'Crushed Himself'

Mann, of M.A. Beech, was hurt while using special equipment to view recently completed concrete repairs, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

PA bridge inspector killed Bridge inspector killed

Emergency responders try (left) to save the life of bridge inspector Tripat Mann, who was accidentally crushed under a steel beam while working from a cherry picker (right) June 19 near Pittsburgh, PA. Mann worked for M.A. Beech Corp.

Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Robin Mungo told reporters: "We had an individual that was out here inspecting a bridge. He was on what we typically call a 'cherry picker.'

"Apparently, he got too close to the beams, and in some way he lost control of the equipment and crushed himself with one of the steel beams that he was inspecting."

The overpass bridge that was under inspection carries East Ohio Street traffic over the low-lying section of Interstate 279 North. The Parkway North was restricted to a single lane for several hours during the investigation.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Construction; Cranes; Fatalities; Government contracts; Health and safety; Inspection; lift; Maintenance programs; OSHA

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