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Company Admits Error in Fatal Collapse

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

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Ohio's largest general contractor has conceded that an "engineering mistake" in its bridge demolition plan may have contributed to a catastrophic collapse that killed one its foremen last month.

In a rare admission issued Saturday (Feb. 14), Kokosing Construction Company Inc. CEO Brian Burgett said that his company's internal investigation had revealed an error in the plan to demolish Cincinnati's Hopple Street Ramp Bridge—a project that dropped about 100 tons of concrete onto Interstate 75 on the night of Jan. 19.

The collapse killed foreman Brandon Carl, 35, of Augusta, KY, who had been standing on the bridge, directing demolition crews at the time. He was pinned underneath a piece of equipment when the bridge gave way. Part of the bridge also landed on a truck passing underneath, injuring the driver.

HoppleStreetCollapse / Cincy Fire & EMS

About 100 tons of concrete debris dropped onto Interstate 75 when the overpass collapsed.

Kokosing is the lead contractor on the $91 million project to rebuild a stretch of I-75, including the interchange.

Carl is survived by his fiancee and their four children.

'I Am Very Sorry'

Kokosing is a family company that  was originally known as William Burgett Construction when it was founded in 1951. The current CEO is the founder's son. The company has about 3,000 employees across several states.

In his statement, dated Friday, Burgett said that "preliminary findings from our internal investigation of our demolition plans" led to the conclusion that the company "made an engineering mistake that may have been a contributing factor to the collapse of the bridge and the subsequent death of our colleague, Brandon Carl."

Burgett said he had "personally reached out" to Carl's fiancee "to share this information."

He added: "I am very sorry, and all of us are deeply troubled by these findings."

Provided / via WCPO-TV

Brandon Carl's daughter Kennedy was the oldest of his four children. Carl, 35, died Jan. 19.

Burgett said the company had shared its findings with Ohio's Department of Transportation and with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which are conducting separate investigations.

Improving Demolition Planning

"We want to assist them in every way we can...," said the statement. "We now need to do everything in our power to make sure a tragedy like this never happens again."

Burgett said the company had hired an outside engineering firm, Janssen & Spaans, to prepare designs for Kokosing's future bridge demolition projects.

Kokosing Construction Co.

"I am very sorry, and all of us are deeply troubled by these findings," said Kokosing Construction CEO Brian Burgett.

"Kokosing’s professional engineering team will conduct an independent review of those plans so that two companies will have to agree before we proceed with demolition in the future."

In an interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer, Burgett said the company had "not ruled out other things that could have been contributing factors" to the collapse.

Meanwhile, he said, there was "no question in our mind there is a mistake that's been made in the demo plan design. Our engineering firm has told us that it wouldn't work the way it was."

What Went Wrong

Burgett's statement did not explain the error the company had found, but The Enquirer cited documents showing that the demolition plan was changed just hours before the collapse.

"The demolition plan had key details missing for demolishing the bridge, Kokosing officials said," the news outlet reported. "The plan did not specify how workers should remove the concrete road surface from the [northbound I-75 exit] ramp...."

HoppleStBridge / Cincy Fire & EMS

The bridge collapsed in part on a rig driving underneath. The driver was injured, but survived.

Another bridge demolished as part of the same project did include those details, the company told the newspaper.

The news outlet said it had interviewed bridge experts who called the plan flawed, including some who questioned why the demolition started on one side of the span, instead of in the middle.

Separately, WCPO-TV said it had interviewed "multiple structural engineers" who said the plan had been missing a required element—consideration of a possible unplanned collapse.

The plans were developed by Kokosing lead engineer Bret Murray, who has developed about 300 such plans in his 20 years with the company, The Enquirer said.

Safety Record

WCPO-TV reported that its examination of 299 federal records showed that Kokosing had been involved in 11 Ohio accidents resulting in injury or death.

On Monday (Feb. 16), OSHA records showed a so-called FAT/CAT (Fatality/Catastrophe) incident in 2011, but no details were available and no citations were issued. The record showed no other fatal incidents involving the company since 2005, and no earlier records were available.

An OSHA spokesman called Kokosing "one of the good companies out there that has a strong safety and health program" and "a pretty good track record."

Both Carl's fiancee and his parents have filed lawsuits in the case.



Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Demolition; Engineers; Fatalities; General contractors; Health and safety; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Roads/Highways

Comment from MICHAEL DEATON, (2/17/2015, 6:50 AM)

RIP Carl...tomorrow is not promised to any of us!

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