An investigation is underway into a fatal April 14 accident during demolition at the decommissioned Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The Dare County Sheriff’s office confirmed that one construction worker was killed when a steel section of the bridge suddenly collapsed into the inlet.
Built in 1962, the Bonner Bridge was closed in early 2019 following completion of the parallel Marc Basnight Bridge, built by PCL Civil Constructors. Over the past two years, PCL has overseen demolition of the 2.3-mile Bonner Bridge, with most of the material deposited at several offshore artificial reef sites.
One report states that another worker was seriously injured.
The mishap apparently occurred late in the day at one of the old bridge’s remaining two spans, located at what was its highest point, approximately 110 feet above a 130-ft-wide navigation channel. The unconfirmed reports state that two cranes were moving a deck section onto a barge when a worker fell into the water. It is not known whether that individual was the fatality pronounced dead at the scene by emergency medical personnel, or if other workers were injured.
Television video shows a bridge section fallen into the water and partly immersed.
In a statement, PCL President Jeff Westphal expressed condolences to those affected by the tragedy and said the company is “doing everything we can to investigate this incident and assist local authorities.”
Originally scheduled to be completed by the end of 2019, the Bonner Bridge demolition process has been slowed by repeated inlet shoaling that limited the movement of debris-carrying barges. With only the three center spans remaining in mid-February, the North Carolina Department of Transportation said the concrete bridge deck would be removed in 10-ft sections, facilitating removal of steel girders and concrete substructure. Several support piles of previously removed spans also awaited demolition.
The final phase of the demolition work also includes repurposing the southernmost 1,046-ft section of the Bonner Bridge into a fishing pier.
This story was updated April 16, 2021.