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Authorities Eye Heat in Bridge Worker's Death

Monday, August 28, 2017

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Authorities are looking into whether heat exhaustion was to blame for the death of a worker on a bridge painting and rehabilitation project on the Mississippi-Louisiana border Wednesday (Aug. 23).

Natchez Vidalia bridges
Charlie Brenner, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Mississippi River Bridge between Natchez, Mississippi, and Vidalia, Louisiana, carries Highway 84 across the Mississippi.

According to reports, the worker, identified as Alexander Flores, was not accounted for when his shift ended Wednesday on the Mississippi River Bridge, which links Natchez, Mississippi, with Vidalia,  Louisiana. A search effort carried out by a local rescue team located his body around 9 p.m. the same night, on a beam on top of the bridge. Flores reportedly hadn’t been seen since 4:30 p.m., and he was reported missing around 8 p.m.

Heat Exhaustion Eyed

Adams County, Mississippi, coroner James Lee told the Natchez Democrat that he suspects Flores died from heat exhaustion, and Lee ruled the death accidental, but an autopsy is pending. According to local weather records, temperatures reached above 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the area Wednesday afternoon.

MSNewsNow reported Thursday (Aug. 24) that Flores’ coworkers said he had felt nauseous for two days before the incident, but reported for work.

A spokesperson for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration told PaintSquare Daily News the agency is investigating the incident.

Painting, Structural Repairs

The work being done on the bridge in Natchez is part of a $26.8 million contract issued by the Mississippi Department of Transportation for the replacement of six combinations of pins and  links, as well as sandblasting and painting. Blastech Enterprises Inc., of Baltimore, Maryland, is the contractor on the job.

A Blastech representative reached by phone Friday (Aug. 25) declined comment.

MSDOT officials did not specify what work Flores was performing at the time of his death, but MDOT spokesperson Jarrod Ravencraft told PaintSquare Daily News, "All State of Mississippi contracts awarded on behalf of MDOT require contractors to follow Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines from the U.S. Department of Labor. MDOT asks that everyone please keep the family and friends in their thoughts and prayers through this difficult time of healing after this tragic loss. Contractors and MDOT’s frontline workers put their lives at risk every day to keep Mississippi’s transportation system and the traveling public safe."

The work involves the complete shutdown of the westbound bridge, the older of two cantilever spans that comprise the bridge, which carries Highway 84 across the Mississippi River. The bridge is 77 years old, according to MDOT. The shutdown began in July and is set to last up to a year.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Health & Safety; Health and safety; NA; North America; OSHA

Comment from john kern, (8/28/2017, 7:02 PM)

Missing for 3.5 hours??? Did his supervisor not keep up with him and where he was working? Makes me wonder!

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