A crane operator working on an overpass in Maryland near the new Woodrow Wilson bridge across the Potomac River was electrocuted Aug. 23 when the crane's boom fell and hit a power line, says a spokesman for the project.

Robert Farrell, 44, an operator for heavy-highway contractor G.A. & F.C.Wagman Inc., York, Pa., was working on a new overpass across the Capital Beltway in Oxon Hill, Md., near the site of the new Wilson span. Project spokesman John Undeland says Farrell had finished using the crane to move some construction equipment and had put the boom in the "up" position. After Farrell got out of the cab, the boom started to come down, Undeland says. Farrell tried to stop the boom but it hit the power wires, and he was electrocuted, according to Undeland and Eric Menzer, a spokesman for Wagman. Officials said attempts to revive Farrell on the site were not successful.

Officials said the cause of the accident hasn't been determined. Maryland's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, State Highway Administration, federal OSHA and the Prince George's County Police Dept. and Wagman are investigating the accident. Menzer says there is no confirmed chronology yet of what happened. He also said he was unable to discuss specifics of what happened until the investigation is complete.

Menzer says the project was shut down the rest of the day of the accident, which was a Friday, and reopened on Aug. 26. He says the project also will be closed early on the 26th and all of the following day so other workers can attend Farrell's funeral. Menzer says Farrell, of Norfolk, Va., had been with Wagman since 1999.

Undeland says this is the only fatality on the $2.4-billion project and that there had not been any previous major injuries since the job began. Besides the bridge itself, the project includes major Beltway interchange improvements in Maryland and Virginia approaching the new span.

Menzer says the last fatality at G.A. & F.C. Wagman occurred several years ago.

He also says, "We certainly have a significant emphasis on safety within the company." In addition, he says the project had a full safety plan with weekly safety meetings and daily "safety huddles."