9 construction workers have been injured following a partial overpass collapse, which occurred on Friday night at 11 p.m., in Southern California.
As the Riverside Country Transportation Commission (RCTC) reported, while a new bridge deck was being lowered into place over an on-ramp in Corona, the section suddenly dropped approximately 16 inches, due to unknown factors.
In its fall, the structure hit support beams, which collapsed on the workers, injuring 9 of them. According to reports, the victims had all been employed by the Atkinson Walsh Construction Joint Ventures.
As witnesses reveal, ambulances and firefighters soon arrived at the scene, and the injured builders were placed on stretchers and rushed to the hospital. Eight of the workers are still hospitalized following the incident, and three of them are in critical condition.
This accident caused transportation authorities to issue a “safety stand-down”, to have construction managers and supervisors reinforce important occupational safety measures among their staff.
Moreover, the construction project was suspended for the weekend, although State Route 91, where the crash took place, remained open to traffic.
“Anytime there is a serious accident involving injuries on a construction site it is imperative to stop, re-examine and re-emphasize the overall safer procedures on the project”, explained RCTC executive director Anne Mayer on Saturday.
An investigation into the cause of the bridge collapse will be conducted, in order to prevent such incidents in the future. For this purpose, East Grand Boulevard, the surface street which was affected on Friday night, will remain closed until Monday, as authorities examine the damage.
The bridge is now stable, and inspections have already been conducted by the construction site’s structural engineering team, according to Eliza Echevarria, spokesperson for the transportation commission.
Further evaluations will be carried out by the California Occupation Safety and Health Administration, as well as by RCTC representatives. Atkinson Walsh will also ask an independent forensic engineer to look into the factors which disrupted the jacking operation and contributed to the overpass collapse.
Meanwhile, as mayor Eugene Montanez has stated, there has been a “huge outpouring of support” from Corona residents for the workers that have been injured.
The accident has renewed debate on social media regarding the Freeway 91 project, but the “general consensus” remains that ensuring safety for builders should be of key importance.
The construction project had begun in July 2014, and was estimated to be finalized in 2017. A staggering $1.4 billion had been invested in this undertaking, which was meant to widen 2 express toll lanes on State Route 91, from the Orange/Riverside county line to Interstate 15 (I-15).
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