Investigators Delve Into I-70 Girder Collapse in Colorado

Wed May 26, 2004 - West Edition

GOLDEN, CO (AP) Federal investigators are backing off earlier statements that construction workers were improvising when they installed temporary braces on a 40-ton bridge girder that later collapsed and killed a family of three.

The braces, used to secure the girder when it was installed on the night of May 11, were discussed at a meeting in March, Jefferson County sheriff’s spokeswoman Jacki Tallman said Thursday.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigator had said May 19 that the braces were devised on the scene by the crew foreman and approved by state officials after crews got behind and couldn’t finish their work that night.

The March meeting was attended by representatives of the Colorado Department of Transportation, Ridge Erection Co., the subcontractor that installed the girder, and Asphalt Specialties Co., the main contractor, Tallman said.

Details of what was discussed and who approved the bracing method are being investigated, she said.

The 100-ft. girder, part of a project to expand a bridge over Interstate 70, drooped over the freeway on the morning of May 15, shearing in half an SUV and killing William and Anita Post of Evergreen and their 2-year-old daughter, Koby Anne.

Four of the five temporary braces were found bent after the collapse. The ends of the girder were not fastened to the bridge.

Workers had planned to install two girders but got behind schedule because one was incorrectly marked at the foundry, which led crews to install it backward, officials said.

It had to be turned around, leaving workers no time to install the second girder before I-70 had to be reopened by 5:30 a.m. Experts said a second girder would have helped shore up the first.

Bad weather kept crews from resuming work the next two nights. The next night was a Friday, and state rules forbid road closures for construction on weekends, so the work was again delayed.

The girder collapsed on Saturday morning.

AP Photo