Two men fell 75 to 80 ft. to their deaths Friday, June 12, when a rebar cage they were attaching gave way on a New Orleans-area bridge widening project, ENR has learned.

Photo: Courtesy Louisiana TIMED Program
The Huey P. Long Bridge Widening project, where two workers fell to their deaths June 12.

The Louisiana Dept. of Transportation and Development has ordered joint venture Kiewit/Massman/Traylor Construction to cease all related steel and iron work on the $434 million, Phase IV of the Huey P. Long Bridge widening in New Orleans.

Around 6 p.m., June 12, Martin Reyes, 26, Austin, Texas and Ulvaldo Soto, 33, Kenner, La. were pronounced dead on the scene when Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office first responders arrived at the accident site in Bridge City, La., says Colonel John N. Fortunato, public information officer.

Both men were wearing safety harnesses, Fortunato says. “I’ve seen those harnesses, and I’m sure the purpose of those is that if you fall from a bridge, they will save you from falling to the water or the ground,” he says. “But if the thing you are attached to falls also, then that doesn’t work. Of course, that is for OSHA to determine, not the sheriff’s office.”

The accident occurred over land, on the west bank of the Mississippi River, where the joint venture partnership of Kiewit Louisiana Company, Massman Construction Co., Kansas City, Mo. and Traylor Brothers, Inc., Evansville, Ind. are driving pilings, constructing columns, trumpets and caps that will become the supports of the new approaches.

“The trumpets, or flared top section of the support columns, are being formed with custom steel forms that produce the specified shape,” said Tom Thorn, KMTC project manager, for a previous interview about the project. KMTC began the project June, 2008 and is scheduled for completion summer 2013. At the time of the accident, the contractor had about 110 craft employees on the job, according to a spokesperson for Louisiana Timed Managers, performing project management for the DOTD.

Financed by Louisiana’s Transportation Infrastructure Model for Economic Development, the Huey P. Long Bridge widening is scheduled for completion 2013.