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Unstable Snooper Truck Kills Inspector

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

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A routine bridge inspection turned fatal for one inspector in Connecticut last week.

William Shook, an employee of McClain and Co., was killed after the snooper truck on site tipped and crushed him while setting up for a job, NBC Connecticut reported Aug. 27.

The site said that Shook was using the snooper truck to inspect an entrance ramp connecting at Interstate 84 in West Hartford on Aug. 26.

At the time of the accident he was standing between the truck and bridge railing while the truck’s arm and bucket were being retracted.

No one was in the bucket when the 31-ton vehicle became unbalanced and tipped, crushing Shook.

Fox CT reported that first responders found Shook lying on the roadway. He was taken to St. Francis Hospital with injuries where he later died.

The ramp remained closed while equipment was brought in to lift the vehicle, which was hanging upside down over the bridge.

At that time, officials feared the boom was unstable and could shift or rotate when moved. According to Fox CT, the removal process took more than nine hours.

Under Investigation

As of Aug. 28, Hartford-area director for OSHA told the Hartford Courant that OSHA’s investigation into the accident had just been opened and it was still in the process of collecting information and conducting interviews.

Additionally, CT State Police Troop H is leading the investigation into the death, spokesman Trooper Tyler Weerden told the paper.  

He also indicated that their fire and explosives unit would assist a state crane inspector in a technical investigation of the equipment, adding that inspection of cranes falls within the jurisdiction of the state fire marshal's office.

Hazmat crews from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection were also called in when fluid—possibly fuel or hydraulic fluid—was found to be leaking from the equipment into Trout Brook below.

Double Vision

This happened to be the second bridge inspection mishap in the area that week involving a snooper truck also owned by McClain.

Fox CT reported that McClain and Co., Culpeper, VA, is subcontracted by GM2, which Connecticut employs for bridge inspections. McClain provides underbridge and aerial equipment rentals, as well as highway and underbridge support services.

Just the previous day, crews had to rescue two contractors who became stuck over the side of the bridge deck when their snooper truck malfunctioned, WFSB reported Aug. 25.

The workers were performing an inspection on the Gold Star Bridge in Groton, CT, when they were unable to bring the bucket back up to the roadway and had to be rescued by emergency crews. 

The New London Fire Department used its ladder and bucket to bring down the inspectors who were stranded for about an hour.

DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick told NBC Connecticut the workers were wearing harnesses and were not in danger.

He also told the Courant that the equipment malfunction the workers experienced was not necessarily uncommon with highly specialized trucking equipment.

News sites reported that, as a result of the repeat incidents involving McClain’s trucks, the state has suspended operations utilizing McClain while the investigations continue.

History of Inspections

According to its website, McClain & Co., Inc. was established in 1998 to provide support services to engineering companies and government agencies for the inspection and maintenance of bridges. The company has grown to become the largest underbridge access equipment supplier in North America.

Inspection records from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration show that McClain’s 100-plus vehicles have been inspected more than twenty times in the past two years, according to the Courant.

No serious violations of safety laws were reported, earning the company a satisfactory rating.

However, maintenance safety issues such as oil leaks, inoperative headlights and defective breaks were recorded.

Among other statistics the paper cited:

  • Vehicles were deemed unfit for service 42.1 percent of inspections.
  • The company falls in the 76th percentile for vehicle maintenances, which is just under the 80 percent threshold before federal authorities intervene.
  • Among the 31 inspections of the company’s 100 drivers, only four resulted in violations that involved expired or invalid certifications of medical exams.
  • Drivers experienced no violations for unsafe driving in the past year and not drug or alcohol violations in the past two years.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Asia Pacific; Bridges; Cranes; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Fatalities; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Inspection; Latin America; North America; OSHA; Roads/Highways

Comment from Antonio Leal, (9/2/2015, 8:38 AM)

Probably several failures occurred. 1- No one should remain near to the equipment supplied that is working in this situation. 2. The equipment, providing sufficient information on: leaning, balancing and critical states, all this in front of the operator, in the instrument panel. 3- Do not tempt fate!

Comment from peter gibson, (9/2/2015, 4:03 PM)

Operator was texting while operating. Paid no attention to panel.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (9/8/2015, 2:27 PM)

Shouldn't be able to happen if the outriggers are properly deployed and locked.

Comment from Thomas Watson, (10/25/2019, 3:58 PM)

I worked for this company for about two years and quit because they had defective equipment and always wanted me to falsify DOT documents and preform illegal and dangerous task.

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