Collapse of girders kills one man, injures three

August 22, 2005

When a 240-ton section of steel girders came crashing down, the workers assembling the massive highway ramp had only seconds to get out of the way. The incident occurred near Lansing, Ill., killing one man and injuring three others.

According to the Chicago Tribune, crews returned to the scene the following morning to begin the perilous work of clearing the twisted wreckage and to retrieve the body of Daniel Lopez, an iron worker and father of four from Munster, Ind.

Demolition crews wielded six-foot blowtorches to cut away large sections of the girders, and Glenwood firefighters recovered Lopez’ body later that evening.

The day before, Lopez was among a half-dozen ironworkers installing a section of the ramp that would link Interstate Highways 80 and 94, reports the Chicago Tribune. At about 5 p.m., the crew was placing the last of six 40-ton girders atop two 25-ft-high concrete piers when the section shifted, then fell.

Workers had spent the week placing the six beams atop the piers and connecting them to one another with iron bars, said Mike Claffey, Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) spokesman.

Lopez was working either on or near the shoring tower, a steel structure located in the middle of girders for support during construction, Claffey said.

According to officials, two other workers were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, and one was treated at the scene.

According to the Chicago Tribune, northbound lanes of Illinois Highway 394 just south of I-80 were being detoured. Southbound traffic was not affected, and IDOT officials hoped to have all lanes reopened for the Monday morning commute.

Ted Faerber, president of Glendale Heights-based Dunnet Bay Construction, said his bridge contracting company had been hired for the $33 million project to build the ramp after the previous contractor went out of business, the newspaper reported. His company hired Angus Contractors as a subcontractor to erect the structural steel for the ramp, Faerber said.

Faerber, who was called out to the scene after the accident, said, “a lot of investigative work has to happen before we know what caused the accident.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) records for the Wayne-based Angus Contractors show that the company was last cited in 2002 with violations relating to accident prevention signs and tags at a work site in Schaumburg. The company was fined $700, according to the OSHA records.