A mid-morning pedestrian bridge collapse Oct. 10 in upstate New York left one construction worker dead and nine injured, including a New York State Dept. of Transportation inspector. State and federal officials have closed the site and are investigating the accident.
The bridge collapsed in the town of Marcy, which is adjacent to Utica. Workers for Tioga Construction Co. Inc, Herkimer, were paving the 170-ft-long, 14-ft-wide structure when it fell. "We had formed the deck and were placing concrete at the time," says Charles Sirowatka, Tioga project engineer. "We got about halfway out when the bridge rolled to one side then bent in the middle."
He says the crew was pitched off the deck and showered with formwork and rebar, which landed on top of them. Killed was Scott Couchman, 45, of nearby Mohawk, a 12-year employee who was the firm's master mechanic. Couchman was operating the deck-finishing machine at the time. Two other Tioga employees are in critical condition, five are in serious or satisfactory condition and one has been released. The NYSDOT inspector is still in the hospital. Tioga is a family-owned bridge and associated specialty firm that works primarily in New York state.
The steel tub girder bridge crosses about 20 ft above the four-lane Utica-Rome expressway, which is still under construction. The workers and bridge landed on a gravel section of that highway. The bridge was designed to connect a walkway and bike path from a high school on the north side of the road to residential housing on the south side.
Tioga was building the bridge as part of a $5.5-million contract that also includes the State Route 291 highway bridge and ramps for a new interchange. That bridge is about 1,400 ft away from the collapsed structure. "At this time we have no idea why it collapsed and no one has offered any theories yet," says Sirowatka. "There was no indication anything was wrong. It was just sudden and catastrophic."