Crane Accidents

Why Did the Beam Fall Off Crane?

04/21/01

Chesterfield, Virginia

Original Story (04/21/2001):  Highway Project Worker is Killed

Investigators know what killed construction worker Isaias Martinez Hernandez at the Route 895 highway project in Chesterfield County.

But they don’t know why it happened.

Hernandez was cleaning out the bed of a pickup truck at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday when a 5-foot-long, 500-pound support beam fell on top of him from a nearby crane.

Officials from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Virginia Department of Transportation are still investigating what caused the crane to drop the beam that killed 36-year-old Hernandez.

They’ll work as long as it takes to get an answer, said Herbert Morgan, the Route 895 project director.

Morgan served as a spokesman for Fluor Daniel and Morrison Knudsen – two private companies partnered to head the state-funded project, known as the Pocahontas Parkway.

Morgan said all crane operations at the site will cease while officials investigate, but other work will continue.

“We express our deepest sympathy to the family,” he said. Hernandez’s widow, Ines Martinez-Reyes, lives in a small town near Oaxaca, Mexico, with the couple’s three children, ages 13, 11 and 3, said state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller. Since 1999, Hernandez had worked for Recchi American Inc. – one of the Pocahontas project’s nearly 30 subcontractors.

The company also employs Hernandez’s brother, Javier Barboza , and his uncle, Virginio Martinez-Hernandez . Two of Hernandez’s other brothers also work at the site. None of them could be reached.

Emillio Roseillo, a vice president with Recchi, said, “I personally express our deepest sorrow to the family for the loss of Isaias.”

Roseillo, who flew up from the company’s Miami headquarters yesterday, stressed that worker safety is Recchi’s chief concern. Recchi will cooperate fully in the investigation as well as conduct its own, Roseillo said.

“The job [at Route 895] is under our strict scrutiny,” he added. One other worker has died at the site since work began nearly three years ago.

In December 1999, Israel Hernandez Cruz , 27, died when reinforcing rods collapsed on him as he worked on the parkway’s bridge, which will span the James River when completed.

Fluor Daniel and Morrison Knudsen were cited for an OSHA violation in that accident and fined $7,000. “They are contesting that fine,” said Karen Lutto, a spokeswoman for the two companies.

Recchi also landed a $2,250 OSHA fine for the 1999 fatality, which involved a worker employed by one of its subcontractors, Roseillo said.

Central Virginia’s largest highway project currently under way, the 8.8-mile Pocahontas Parkway will connect the Chippenham Parkway in Chesterfield to interstates 295 and 64 in Henrico County and will cost an estimated $324 million.

“We take our safety very seriously,” Morgan said, but “there’s inherent danger in what we do.”

Category: Report Update

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