Painter Electrocuted on Bridge Project

THURSDAY, MAY 23, 2013

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.

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 & Safety; Health and safety; Painting Contractors; Surface preparation

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