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PA Bridge Collapses during Repair

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

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RIDGWAY, PA--Authorities are still searching for answers after the abrupt collapse of a century-old bridge that injured three workers northeast of Pittsburgh, PA.

Security video graphically shows the 103-year-old North Broad Street Bridge on U.S. Route 219 giving way beneath an excavator about 2 p.m. Thursday (June 18), taking the workers with it. (See photos here.)

The men and equipment dropped about 20 feet toward the creek below, but decking underneath the bridge prevented a longer fall into the creek itself, local officials said.

Security Video

Raw footage from surveillance video captured the collapse Thursday in Ridgway, PA.

The workers' identities and conditions have not been released, but only one of the three was believed to have suffered serious injuries.

"The excavator was sitting in the middle of the bridge, and two guys were walking across the bridge, and it just collapsed," Fire Chief Scott Pontious told The Associated Press.

Although part of the bridge was open at the time, there were no vehicles on it. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation closed the bridge after the accident.

'We Really Don't Know What Happened'

It was not clear for whom the victims worked. Paul Roman, president of contractor Francis J. Palo Inc., initially gave conflicting statements to different media outlets.

At least two of the victims appeared to be employees of a subcontractor whom Roman did not identify.

The cause remained under investigation. Some reports noted that the area had been hit by rains all week. And NBC local affiliate WJAC reported that the bridge "was badly damaged by flood waters last year."


The bridge span dropped about 20 feet, taking the excavator and three workers with it.

“We really don’t know what happened,” Roman told the Bradford Era. Crews were demolishing half of the bridge as planned when “it just buckled.”

Cutting the Bridge

Authorities told WJAC that crews had been making horizontal cuts to the bridge before the collapse.

“They were cutting across one abutment earlier this week, and they almost finished or just finished cutting the other abutment,” Ridgway Borough Manager Kim Zimmerman told the station.

PennDOT assistant district executive Ben LaParne told WTAJ that four or five horizontal cuts had been made and crews "were in the process of making the last vertical cut."

“They were cutting across one abutment earlier this week and they almost finished or just finished cutting the other abutment,” Ridgway Borough Manager Kim Zimmerman told WTAJ.

“I’d say maybe 4 or 5 cuts that were made the both abutments had horizontal cuts in em and they were in the process of making the last vertical cut,” PennDOT assistant district executive Ben LaParne told WTAJ.

- See more at:

Bridge Project

The incident came during a $2.2 million replacement of the bridge's superstructure. The project began in March and was slated to finish in October, The Era reported.

The bridge, built in 1912, carries about 5,500 vehicles a day, about 10 percent of them trucks, according to the National Bridge Inventory.

The inventory gives the bridge (also known locally as the Pennsy Bridge) a rating of 4 on a scale of 0 to 9, indicating "poor condition."


Tagged categories: Bridges; Government contracts; Health and safety; Industrial Contractors; North America; Program/Project Management; Rehabilitation/Repair

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (6/24/2015, 8:24 AM)

That's a heavy looking excavator, especially if they've already cut through the deck rebar transversely.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (6/24/2015, 10:55 AM)

Looking at some of the Era's photos, it looks like that span was not attached to the central support girder and, depending on where the cuts were, possibly weakened as well... I think someone's removal procedure or the execution was a bit off on this one. Glad that it seems like the injuries weren't severe.

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