State Police Say Flaw in Demolition Plan Cause of Fatal Bridge

Wed March 17, 2004 - National Edition

STRATFORD, CT (AP) A fatal crane accident at the Sikorsky Memorial Bridge may have been caused by a flaw in the demolition plan, according to a state police investigator and reported March 12 by the New Haven Register.

Charles Jordan, 60, of Satsuma, AL, died Feb. 17 when the crane he was operating toppled off a barge into the Housatonic River under the weight of a beam that was nearly twice as heavy as the crane was designed to hold, state police say.

The state medical examiner ruled the death accidental and caused by multiple blunt traumatic injuries.

State police Sgt. Scott Llewellyn said the beam that was being removed by two cranes, one of which was Jordan’s, weighed about 75 tons (68 t). The two cranes were rated to lift about 40 tons (36.3 t) each, or a total of about 80 tons (72.6 t), Llewellyn said.

"We’re concerned over the beam itself that was being picked up –– that perhaps it was incorrectly picked up," Llewellyn said. "Something went drastically wrong."

Had the removal gone as planned, the two cranes together would have lifted the beam and set it down. State police believe the beam bent as it was lifted, leaving Jordan’s crane holding the beam, Llewellyn said.

"That crane alone couldn’t handle that type of weight. The two cranes working together could," he said. "One crane ended up supporting the entire weight."

The state is replacing the steel-grated bridge, which connected the Merritt and Wilbur Cross parkways in Stratford, with an 1,800-ft. (548.6 m), solid-deck span.

The DOT began plotting demolition and removal of the old bridge in 1996 and started construction in 1999. The new bridge opened to traffic in November. That bridge is to be widened once the old bridge is torn town. The $96 million project is expected to be completed by 2005.