Investigations are just now being launched into the causes of two unrelated fatal crane accidents at bridge sites that occurred within 24 hours of each other. Three workers were killed and five injured in Toledo on Feb. 16 and there is one confirmed fatality in Stratford, Conn., at ENR press time on Feb. 17.

The accident in Toledo occurred about 2:30 p.m. at the site of the $220- million Maumee River Bridge, a precast segmental cable-stayed structure with a 1,225-ft main span. As crews from St. Louis-based Fru-Con Construction Corp. were repositioning a 2-million-lb, 315-ft launching truss to prepare for another segment placement, the truss collapsed. Killed were ironworkers Robert Lipinski Jr., 44, of Grand Rapids, Ohio; Mike Moreau, 30, of Lambertville, and Mike Phillips, 42, of South Toledo. All were members of ironworkers'; union Local 55. Five other workers were injured, two seriously. The truss, which was not carrying a segment, fell partly onto Interstate 280, but no motorists were injured, says Joe Rutherford, Ohio Dept. of Transportation spokesman. It is unclear how many workers were on site, but Fru-Con generally has more than 300 workers on the project, he says.


I-280 will remain closed indefinitely, "until we can ensure the safety of the investigation of the workers in the area, the investigators themselves and the motorists," Rutherford says. The county coroner, Toledo police, U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Fru- Con all are conducting investigations. "There's been preliminary contact with the police department," says Rutherford.

OSHA, Fru-Con and ODOT had a partnering agreement for safety on the job, a state first. Until the accident, Fru-Con had worked 1 million man hours between March 2002 and Dec. 31, 2003, with just five lost-time injuries—400% better than the national average.

The $3-million truss was one of two custom-built by Italian manufacturer Paolo de Nicola. It normally takes the pair of trusses one week to complete each 150-ft span. They had completed 11 of 30 spans late last week, say Fru-Con sources. The crane lifts the sections of roadway into place. Once a span of roadway is completed, the crane's back end and middle legs are advanced inchworm-like to the next pier. Each span weighs between 75 to 100 tons, says Rutherford. The new bridge will rise 130 ft above the existing route carrying 1-280.

Fru-Con had been on track to finish the job 14 months ahead of the scheduled completion date of mid-2006 with a $5-million value-engineering bonus, says Rutherford. The impact on the schedule now is not yet known, but four bridge piers and two segments were damaged. OSHA has six months to report its findings, though it will not likely take that long, says Rutherford.

The bridge is the largest public works project in Ohio. Designed by Figg Engineering Group, Tallahassee, it will have a unique cradle system for its single plane of cables attached to a 404-ft-tall pylon, featuring 200-ft panels of glass.

Less than 24 hours later, at a $96-million bridge replacement job in Stratford, Conn., two barge-mounted cranes collapsed, killing the crane operator, says Connecticut Dept. of Transportation spokesman Paul Breen. "One is in the river and the other's boom flipped backwards and impacted the western shore," he says. The cranes were lifting out a girder of the 1,800-ft-long, four-lane steel-grated Sikorsky Memorial Bridge, which has been replaced by a new bridge opened last year over the Housatonic River. Apparently the boom of one crane snapped, causing the collapse.

Balfour Beatty Construction Inc., Atlanta, won the contract for the job in 2001. It was due to be completed in 2005 under an extended schedule. At ENR press time on Feb. 17, the state fire marshal who handles crane accidents, the state police and OSHA were all still on the accident scene, but all lanes of State Route 15 had been reopened to traffic, says Breen.