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Painter Electrocuted on Bridge Project

Thursday, May 23, 2013

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Authorities are investigating the death of a worker on a Kentucky bridge painting project that has been fast-tracked for early completion.

Nett Gonzales, 35, of Houston, TX, was killed Monday (May 20) evening as crews were preparing for a coating project on the Glover H. Cary Bridge, which connects Owensboro, KY, and Spencer County, in southern Indiana, over the Ohio River.

Gonzalez was found unconscious about 6:30 p.m, dangling in the safety netting on the bridge, known locally as the Blue Bridge, officials said.

Glover Cary bridge - containment

Containment construction and other preparation work has been underway on the bridge for several weeks. The victim was found unconscious in safety netting.

Workers used a lift to reach the netting, cut Gonzales free, and bring him to street level. He was taken to Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Gonzales worked for Campbell, Ohio-based Spartan Contracting LLC.

'A Great, Great Man'

Maria Hazimihais, Spartan's office manager, said Wednesday (May 22) that Gonzales was alone when the accident happened.

"This was an after-work accident," she said. "No one else was on the job."

Gonzales "was a great, great man and loved by everybody," she said. "Our prayers and condolences are with the family."

The Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Administration is leading the investigation, which is expected to take several months.

Burns, Electrocution Cited

The preliminary report of an autopsy Tuesday (May 21) concluded that Gonzalez was electrocuted "just a few minutes" before fellow workers discovered him in the netting, Daviess County Coroner Jeff Jones told a news conference.

The bridge was closed earlier this month to prepare for a six-month repainting job, and crews were preparing the structure for abrasive blasting, Jones said.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Keith Todd told the Associated Press that Gonzales had burns on his hands, indicating that he may have been shocked by a power line.

"We don't know yet if it was something he was working with, like some kind of equipment, or if he touched something by accident," Todd said.

Glover Cary bridge

Nett Gonzalez died from electrocution, possibly from coming in contact with lights or related power lines during preparation work on the bridge, officials said.

Todd told the AP that the preparation work of recent weeks has included installing equipment and containment to keep paint and debris out of the river, as well as dismantling large decorative lights for storage during painting.

"This could've had something to do with the lights," Todd said. "We just don't know yet."

$10M Project

KYTC awarded the $10,070,000 contract for the Blue Bridge project earlier this spring to Spartan Contracting.

The project involves cleaning and recoating structural steel on four spans of the 4,622.8-foot-long bridge, which opened in 1940. Spartan was one of 10 bidders for the project; bids ranged up to $21.7 million.

The bridge, a local landmark, was scheduled to be repainted in 2017, but the plan was fast tracked in December to complete the painting in time for Owensboro’s bicentennial.

Glover Cary Bridge

Painting of the Glover Cary ("Blue") Bridge was accelerated for the bicentennial of Owensboro, KY. The $10 million painting contract was awarded this spring.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said the bridge painting project should be accelerated because it was important to the redevelopment of Owensboro’s riverfront.

The bridge, which carries KY 2262 over the river, is jointly maintained by KYTC and the Indiana Department of Transportation.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Containment; Fatalities; Government contracts; Health and safety; Painting Contractor; Surface preparation

Comment from Donald L Crusan, (5/23/2013, 11:20 AM)

We must enforce a 2 man rule. It may not have saved this gentleman, but we need to preach and practice the rule.

Comment from jason bray, (5/23/2013, 2:49 PM)

Agree 100% on a job like that you have to be Zero Tolerance. I stole that phrase from SayNo TO Drugs Oeple for me jobs years ago, we have to have zero tolerance for casual behaviour. But Like he said not much you can do when you get grounded .

Comment from Billy Russell, (5/23/2013, 3:51 PM)

Prayers to the family of our fallen Brother.

Comment from WAN MOHAMAD NOR WAN ABDUL RAHMAN, (5/24/2013, 3:26 AM)

Today we have laws but lack of enforcement. When there is an accident involving lives then the blame game will start.

Comment from josh hutcheson, (5/24/2013, 8:49 AM)

what happened to lock-out tag-out why must they cut corners when it comes to their own safety!! no short cuts the life you save maybe yours !!!!

Comment from dave Weidner, (5/26/2013, 12:25 PM)

Tremendous points made and a absolute about the 2 men working rule but I'm curious to know why the difference in the top to bottom bids was there concerns about the hazards this job presented ?

Comment from Donald L Crusan, (5/29/2013, 7:42 AM)

@dave Weidner. Yes about 1/2 of the high bid got the award. This is the prime reason we must not allow the GOP to decimate the workforce quality by pushing "right to work" laws, dismantling Davis-Bacon, and pushing for Merit Shop Bid Awards.

Comment from james morrison, (5/30/2013, 11:09 AM)

They left ten million on the table it should have gave ky dot a sign to look into the contractors records not to blame the contracter I'm a foreman I no how dumb some of this painters r u got to watch them all the time most of them r knuckle heads constantly watch them to make Shure they r working safe.

Comment from John Koullias, (5/31/2013, 9:17 AM)

Hey I take it by your spelling and punctuation that you are dumb and a knucklehead. I've been doing this job long enough to know that the dumb and knuckle heads get these bridges done. Show a little respect for a fallen comrade. You must be a rookie.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (5/31/2013, 10:45 AM)

@james morrison - Leaving money "on the table" doesn't mean that anything is bad. It should prompt some questions, but it doen't mean the contractor or bid is bad or will be unsafe. We had a bridge removal here where the low bid was ~$35,000 with the next bid being ~$250,000 (about what was anticipated). Difference was the low bidder had a conditional contract to sell the steel if he got the job and he included that savings in his bid amount. Contractor had good record and did the job quickly, efficiently and safely at ~15% of the next guy's bid. Yes, the low bid can be a cause for concern (and generally should be looked at carefully if it is far below the other bids), but is doesn't automatically mean the contractor is cutting corners on safety, quality or anything else.

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