Crane Collapse Kills Three Ironworkers in Ohio

Ironworkers Robert Lipinski Jr., Mike Moreau and Mike Phillips were killed Feb. 16 when a 315-foot tall, 2-million-pound erection truss crane collapsed on the new I-280 bridge construction project in East Toledo, Ohio. The crane was one of two on the site.

Five other workers were injured. Three are listed in fair condition at area hospitals, while one is in serious condition and another in critical condition. The men are suffering from injuries ranging from closed head injury, spinal injuries and injuries to the abdomen, chest, and extremities.

Rescue crews spent several hours rescuing the injured workers and recovering the bodies of Lipinski, Moreau and Phillips. Members of Ironworkers Local 55 waited as the dead and injured were recovered, then asked to carry the stretchers to the waiting ambulances.

"They were very experienced ironworkers. None of them were rookies. They were very good, top men," said Joe Blaze, business manager of Local 55.

One onlooker described the scene as an erector set that had been pulled apart.

Rich Martinko, assistant director of highway management for the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), said, "We really don't have any answers or any indication what led to this." The highway will remain closed today while state and local investigators, as well as OSHA inspectors, investigate the collapse of the crane, which was built specifically for the project.

Although part of the crane tumbled into the left lane of northbound I-280, no vehicles were hit and no motorists were injured.

General contractor on the site is Fru-Con Construction Corp. The I-280 bridge over the Maumee River is the first project for the company's heavy civil construction group.

The cranes normally take a week to complete each 150-foot span. They had completed the construction of the 11th set of spans late last week and yesterday were being moved into position for the 12th span when the northbound-side's crane fell. The project had a good safety record until the crane collapse, said a spokesman for ODOT. The project has logged only five lost-time injuries during 1.3 million man-hours worked.

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