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New Airport Sign Kills Boy, Crushes Mom

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

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A 10-year-old Kansas boy was killed and his mother critically injured when a massive concrete and glass display board in a newly renovated airport terminal fell on four members of the family.

Luke Bresette, 10, was fatally crushed when the sign, weighing between 300 and 400 pounds, came loose at Birmingham-Shuttleworth International Airport about 1:30 p.m. Friday (March 22).


Luke Bresette, 10, was on his way home from Spring Break with his family when he died.

The accident occurred in a newly renovated, $201.6 million, two-concourse terminal that had opened March 13. The terminal renovation was the first of a two-phase project.

Multiple Injuries

The structure fell as Luke was walking past the sign with his brothers Sam and Tyler and his mother, Heather. The family, from Overland Park, KS, was headed home from a Spring Break vacation in Destin, FL.

Passengers walking past the scene rushed to help the family and struggled to lift the sign off of them.

Heather Bresette was hospitalized in critical condition and underwent surgery for a broken pelvis and two broken ankles. She has been unconscious and on a ventilator since the accident, but her condition has been upgraded to serious, reports said.

Sam Bresette, 8, suffered a broken nose and broken leg, and he remained hospitalized Monday. Tyler, 5, suffered a concussion. The family's father, Ryan Bresette; Luke's sister, Anna; and another brother, Joe, were not near the sign when it fell.

Airport spokeswoman Toni Herrera-Bast said the airport authority was investigating the incident and would inspect other structures to prevent similar occurrences.

Mounting Questioned

The facility just underwent a $201.6 million renovation—the most extensive modernization since it opened in 1931—and questions immediately arose as to how the flight board had been anchored.

ABC News

Responders hold the sign in place after the victims were removed.

"We didn't see any mounting brackets; all I saw was construction adhesive," Albert Osorio, one of the men who helped rescue the family, told ABC News.

The Birmingham Airport Authority, which owns the facility, told over the weekend that its investigation would include "discussions with contractors and subcontractors on the project."

Project Team

The Airport Authority provided these descriptions of the project team.

Architect / Engineering: KPS Group and KHAFRA are the joint venture behind the Terminal Modernization’s architecture and engineering. KPS Group has broad experience in specialized buildings, from neo-traditional town planning, to neighborhood revitalization. KHAFRA provides comprehensive engineering and architectural consulting services for municipal, industrial, environmental, federal, corporate and commercial clients.

Project Management: A.G. Gaston Construction provides work-in-place, state-of-the-art cost and schedule controls, improved coordination, and superior documentations and defense against claims. The company also offers architectural, engineering, and contracting expertise that helps owners optimize cost and quality and avoid profit-eating pitfalls and delays.

Birmingham Airport Authority

A rendering shows the new terminal interior, which opened March 13.

Construction Management: Brasfield & Gorrie and BLOC Global Services Group also formed a joint venture for the Terminal Modernization Project. Brasfield & Gorrie is a full-service general contracting, construction management and design/build service provider. BLOC Global is a real estate develpment services firm that also provides master development, fee development, program construction management, and investment services to public and private sector clients.

In a statement issued after the collapse, Brasfield & Gorrie said it was "diligently working with authorities" to assess the situation.

"We are deeply sorrowful that a life was lost, and we are prayerful that the injured individuals will recover," the statement said. "This is a terrible tragedy that none of us fully understand, and we hope that the family who has lost their loved one will find strength through prayer and the support of all of us. 

"Our entire corporate family extends its deepest sympathies to the family affected and will support them in any way we can. We are keeping the family in our prayers."


Tagged categories: Accidents; Airports; Architects; Building design; Commercial contractors; Concrete; Construction; Contractors; Engineers; Fatalities; Health & Safety; Subcontractors

Comment from joseph schinner, (3/26/2013, 8:40 AM)

Why the free advertizing for the Architects, Engineering, Construction groups? It doesn't fit.

Comment from peter gibson, (3/26/2013, 10:31 AM)

This is the style of writing in trade publications. Everybody gets a plug;good or bad.

Comment from Mary Chollet, (3/26/2013, 11:21 AM)

Gentlemen, no "plug" was intended or should be inferred ... in this or any other PaintSquare News story - ever. The member firms of the project team in this fatal accident will be an important part of this investigation. As the article states, the descriptions are those of the airport authority that hired them. We feel the authority's public representations regarding its contractors in this case are relevant.

Comment from Thomas Matlock, (3/26/2013, 8:25 PM)

Thanks, Mary, and I agree it is important going forward to know who the relevant players were, and what influence each had over the project. And it is they who should be praying constantly for the family victims.

Comment from Donald L Crusan, (3/27/2013, 9:47 AM)

Mary's reporting was spot on. Most often we have no knowledge of who and what. And from my QA perspective, I would like to see the manufacturer of a product listed too.

Comment from paul Orvosh, (3/28/2013, 9:12 AM)

Thoughts and prayers to the family.Avoidable accident. Sounds like a lack of proper installation and no oversight/inspection. Brasfield and Gorrie-is that the same company that got caught hiding undocumented workers in a building(Davis-Bacon work) until after the DOL left the job on a project in florida ?

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