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Falling Concrete Kills Young Family

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

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BONNEY LAKE, WA—A concrete barrier that fell from an overpass under construction has claimed the lives of a couple and their infant son.

EastPointe Foursquare Church identified the victims on its Facebook page as the church's youth pastors, Josh and Vanessa Ellis, and their 8-month-old baby, Hudson.

The accident occurred about 10:30 a.m. Monday (April 13), as construction crews were installing a sidewalk on the overpass of Highway 410 in Bonney Lake, WA. A concrete barrier, about 20 feet long, fell and crushed the family's pickup truck, which was passing underneath.

Josh and Vanessa Ellis
EastPointe Foursquare Church / Facebook

Josh and Vanessa Ellis, youth pastors at EastPointe Foursquare Church, and their 8-month-old infant, Hudson, were killed by a concrete barrier that fell onto the truck as they drove under an overpass.

It was not immediately known why the "very heavy" concrete structure fell, the Seattle Times reported.

Initial Reports: 1 Victim

At first, police knew the driver had been killed but were not sure if others were in the car, KiroTV.com reported. After the debris was removed, rescuers discovered three bodies in the vehicle.

"The damage was so severe, it was impossible to even tell how many victims were in the vehicle," Officer Todd Green with the Bonney Lake Police Department told King5.com.

"The only thing we had, we could tell there was one victim."

$1.8M Sidewalk Project

The City of Bonney Lake received state and federal funding to add a sidewalk to the overpass, according to King5.com. City Public Works Director Dan Grigsby said the project involved tearing down part of the existing bridge to make way for the new sidewalk.

Contractor WHH Nisqually Federal Services started working on the $1.8 million sidewalk project about a month ago, according to media reports.

KomoNews.com reported that the tribally owned company subcontracted a lot of the work to Staton Companies, a demolition and hazard removal business in Portland.

Bonney Lake Police Department
Bonney Lake Police Department

The concrete barrier instantly crushed the Ellises' truck. Initially, police could only verify one victim, the driver. Once the debris was removed, rescuers discovered three bodies in the vehicle.

A spokesperson for Staton told the news station via email "the accident is under investigation, any questions should be directed to the City of Bonney Lake."

WHH Nisqually CEO Bob Iyall said, "We certainly regret what happened, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim."

The company's general manager, Jon Kirk, called it "an unfortunate accident," and added that he could only state the incident was under investigation.

Citing WHH Nisqually's website, KomoNews.com said the company's portfolio ranges from convenience stores to air field taxiways. The company's website appeared to be deactivated Tuesday (April 14).

No Scheduled Removal Work

The project includes rebuilding the north side of the bridge, adding a sewer line, widening Highway 410 between the bridge and 192nd Avenue, and adding bases for future street lights.

Grigsby told the NBC affiliate the construction plan states that if any portion of the overpass was coming down, Angeline Road would be closed. Nothing like that had been scheduled for Monday, Grigsby said.

City spokesman Woody Edvalson told the Seattle Times the concrete that fell was from the original span, which was built in 1992 and has a sufficiency rating of 95.3 out of 100.

Bonney Lake construction fatality
Bonney Lake Police Department

The City of Bonney Lake received state and federal funding to add a sidewalk to the overpass. the project involved tearing down part of the existing bridge to make way for the new sidewalk.

The Bonney Lake Police Department announced via Twitter that the vehicle bridge platform had been inspected by WSDOT engineers and deemed safe for travel.

Investigations Underway

Bonney Lake police, the Washington State Department of Transportation, and representatives from WHH Nisqually are investigating, according to the Seattle Times.

Investigators with the state's Department of Labor & Industries were also on site, spokesman Tim Church told the newspaper.

According to Church, a preliminary review of WHH Nisqually did not show an prior penalties or citations.

The department did cite Staton Companies for three serious violations in 2012 at a bridge construction site in Marysville, WA. The violations dealt with lack of fall protection, no fall protection work plan, and working over or adjacent to water without Coast Guard-approved life vests, Church told KomoNews.com.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Concrete; Contractors; DOT; Fatalities; Health & Safety; North America; Roads/Highways; Subcontractors

Comment from Gail Alario, (4/15/2015, 7:13 AM)

What an awful tragedy; heartbreaking.


Comment from Chuck Pease, (4/16/2015, 12:12 PM)

WOW. prayers to family and friends.


Comment from Anna Jolly, (5/1/2015, 6:09 PM)

Often, municipal governments hire low bid contractors and leave all the safety to them with no oversight. If a company is not concerned about employee safety they generally are not concerned about public safety. I try to get my municipal clients to at least look at safety on their projects but they generally don't get it. This is the kind of thing that can happen. It really is horrible.


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