Workers Fall From Peoria Bridge

A construction platform on a bridge at least 50 feet above the Illinois River in Peoria, Ill., fell yesterday, plunging\r\nfive workers into the water.

A construction platform on the McClugage Bridge at least 50 feet above the Illinois River in Peoria, Ill., fell yesterday, plunging five workers into the water.

Three were killed and a fourth was impaled by a pipe.

One man was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital shortly after he was pulled from the river.

Two other bodies were found after a crane pulled a pile of platform wreckage from the water, Peoria County Coroner Dan Heinz said.

"They got the scaffolding out and that''s when they found them" in about five feet of water, said Heinz.

The workers were part of a construction crew replacing the bridge deck.

Divers could not see because of the mud and silt in the water, according to Roy Modglin, assistant Peoria fire chief. "What they were doing, they were doing all by feel."

Jack Franklin, executive vice president of Midwest Foundation Corp., the company handling the construction, said officials planned to meet today with workers who survived Monday''s accident. The project has been halted until further notice.

A hospital spokesman said one injured worker was impaled by a pipe and was in fair condition after several hours in surgery.

A man who jumped into the river to try to help the fallen workers was treated for hypothermia and released.

The victims'' were identified as Robert L. Foulks, 55, and Ronald F. Watson, 50, both of Peoria, and John W. Irby, 37, of Lacon, the Peoria County Coroner''s office said.

Barry Salerno, assistant area director for OSHA''s Peoria office, said investigators will interview workers and managers to pinpoint the cause and determine whether Midwest violated any safety regulations. He said the report could take six months to complete.

The bridge, which is nearly a mile long, is on the north side of the central Illinois city of 110,000.

According to OSHA''s Web site, the last time Midwest was involved in a fatal accident was in 1985, when a carpenter was crushed by an overloaded crane that overturned during work on a bridge in Milan, Ill.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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