Shiring died in jobsite accident. (Photo by Kathleen Shiring)

Some people leave a big hole in the world when they depart. Those who knew Hubert C. Shiring Jr., 60, still are measuring the void created by the contractor supervisor's death last October in a jobsite accident in Georgia.

Shiring was supervising a crew of three at a bridge project near Millen, Ga. A clamshell bucket had been placed on wood mats on shore and remained there for 40 minutes while he worked alone to replace the pin. Inexplicably, the bucket overturned and pinned Shiring, who died at the scene. No one in Shiring's crew witnessed the accident. Federal safety officials say they are investigating, as is Shiring's employer, TIC-The Industrial Co., Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Friends of Shiring say he was drawn to tough, dangerous work and had his share of injuries to prove it. After 37 years working on site, he thrived on "down-and-dirty" heavy and maritime construction projects, spurning opportunities for office jobs. But they say that Shiring was experienced enough not to take foolish chances, and enjoyed life too much. One of his hobbies: riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

In addition to his wife, Kathleen, a daughter and two sons, Shiring also leaves behind admiring colleagues. A University of Arkansas civil engineering graduate and a Vietnam veteran, he could also dive, captain a tugboat, burn and weld steel and operate a crane.

Associates say that Shiring liked to figure out how to complete jobs that seemed impossible. Nighttime bridge-span replacement was a favorite challenge. "He especially liked the challenge of heavy lifts and coordinated underwater salvage of everything from crawler cranes and tugboats to barges and dump trucks," says Kathleen.

Shiring was impatient, protective and sometimes infuriating, say those who knew him. His crews "loved him," says son Matthew, but bosses weren't always pleased. "You would send him out of town on a job and then never hear from him," says Richard Hoffmann, president of McLean Contracting Co., a Baltimore firm for whom Shiring worked throughout the 1980s. After leaving McLean in the early 1990s, he "missed the people and our big cranes," says Hoffman.

"Irascible and self-sufficient," says F.X. McGeady, chief engineer of contractor Corman-Imbach Inc., Baltimore. Shiring "wanted to get it done and damn the torpedoes," he says. "And we all agreed at the funeral: Hugh was passionate."