Mourning, Investigations Begin After Bridge Accident Kills 3

Editor's Note: this story was first posted on February 16, 2004.

EAST TOLEDO -- Investigators say they won't speculate about what may have caused Monday's construction accident along I-280.

Officials from various agencies met Tuesday morning to discuss their investigation into the accident. OSHA, O-DOT, the city, the construction company FRU-CON, and other agencies were present.  They'll try to answer the many questions surrounding Monday's accident but admit they have no answers.

"It's a very complex process.  We're not going to rush to any judgement, but we're going to be mindful of the need to move forward," says Jule Jones from OSHA.  It could be days before the team can even begin work.  They're not sure what's left of the collapsed truss is stable.  "We want to be conservative with that and to determine the stability, engineers from Frucon have to get in and assess the situation," says Richard Martinko of the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Three people were killed in the accident.  Five more were hurt.  A device called a "launching truss" fell on a semi-truck that was bringing bridge parts to the construction site. It happened just around 2:30 pm on the east side of the Maumee River near the Front Street exit.

Union officials have identified the three killed workers as 44-year-old Robert Lipinski Jr. of Grand Rapids, Ohio; 42-year-old Mike Phillips of  Toledo; and 30-year-old Mike Moreau of Lambertville, MI.

The injured are: Arden Clark, who is in critical condition; Al Hedge, serious condition; Josh Collins, fair condition; and Roger Henneman, fair condition.  Mark Buck has been discharged.

The equipment fell in the space between the northbound and southbound lanes on Interstate 280's approach to the bridge south of downtown, Toledo Fire Capt. Robert Krause said. Traffic was open as crews worked on a $277 million project build a new six-lane freeway bridge alongside the four-lane Craig Memorial Bridge. "There's massive damage," said Krause.

The launching truss, which looks like a crane, is used to move the finished segments of expressway concrete out over the river to attach to the previously finished pieces.  ODOT says the 2 million-pound yellow steel crane was moving but empty when it fell.  The 315-foot-long custom-made crane lifted the 85-ton sections of new roadway into place for workers to attach them. ODOT says the semi that was crushed had just arrived with one of the sections for the crane.

The seven-phase project is the largest in the history of the Ohio Department of Transportation, the agency said.

Lucky Davis, 33, of Toledo, said he was driving north on I-280 about 50 yards from the crane when he heard a crack.  "It was like the loudest thunder I've ever heard in my life," Davis said.  "It was like a split second and I heard people screaming. I was in shock."

Parts of I-280 will be indefinitely closed, according to ODOT.  Traffic going north on I-280 is being diverted to 795 and then to I-75.  Traffic from I-75 is not being allowed on I-280.