RIVERSIDE – Caltrans officials today were trying to learn what triggered a fatal mishap during the demolition of a railroad bridge over the Riverside (91) Freeway.
Okesene Faasalele, 59, of Long Beach was killed when a section of the old Pachappa Railroad Crossing, between 14th Street and Central Avenue in Riverside, gave way, with the victim tethered to the slab of concrete, slinging him onto the eastbound side of the freeway below, according to Caltrans.
”Our investigation is in full force,” Caltrans District 8 spokeswoman Terri Kasinga said. ”We’re doing everything we can to find out what happened out there and make sure it never happens again.”
The accident happened about 3:16 a.m. Sunday. Faasalele died 40 minutes later at Riverside Community Hospital.
”We’re working with the contractor to sort it out,” Kasinga said.
”Anytime something like this occurs, safety is our number one priority.”
Faasalele was employed by Metairie, Louisiana-based Hard Rock Construction, the contractor responsible for replacement of the Pachappa rail bridge, according to Kasinga. She was uncertain of the victim’s position with the company or what he was assigned to do at the site.
”Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family, his loved-ones and coworkers,” Kasinga said.
She said work on the project was suspended, but anticipated work would resume within days.
Along with Caltrans, Cal-OSHA was conducting its own inquiry. Kasinga did not immediately know if the Federal Highway Administration would be sending investigators.
The Pachappa Bridge Replacement Project is part of a $232 million freeway expansion along a six-mile stretch of the 91 through Riverside. Work began in mid-2012 and entails adding HOV lanes on both sides of the freeway, where construction activity is in full view of traffic, beginning near the exit to Mission Inn Avenue to the east and ending around Adams Street to the west.
No motorists were in the area of the deadly accident, because the 91 had been closed Saturday night for the bridge work. The freeway remained closed until early Sunday afternoon, snarling traffic for miles.
Kasinga said there are parts of the old span that still need to be torn down before a new bridge can be erected. She said ”snafus” would likely push back the completion by six months. Work was originally supposed to wrap up by mid-2015.
Riverside: 59-year-old construction worker dies in demolition of bridge over 91 Freeway
A construction worker fell to his death early today when a railroad bridge over the 91 Freeway in Riverside buckled during its demolition and partly collapsed, and snarled traffic in both directions until midday.
California Highway Patrol officers were dispatched at 3:17 a.m. to the Pachappa Railroad crossing between 14th Street and Central Avenue over the westbound lanes of the freeway. The bridge was being demolished as part of the 91 Freeway expansion when a component on the bridge apparently buckled, Cal Trans spokeswoman Terri Kasinga said.
The movement caused the section where the subcontract worker, identified by the coroner’s office as Okesene Faasalele, 59, of Long Beach, was harnessed to collapse. That portion of the bridge twisted during the fall and
swung Faasalele to the westbound lanes below, Kasinga said.
The road had been closed to traffic during the demolition. It was not known what caused the bridge to move as an investigation was ongoing, Cal Trans spokeswoman Michelle Profant said.
Faasalene was taken to Riverside Community Hospital where he died of his injuries at 4 a.m., the Riverside County Coroner’s Office reported.
He worked for a subcontractor called Hard Rock, said Kasinga, who wasn’t sure where the company was based.
Traffic on both sides of the freeway between Seventh Street and Adams Avenue had been closed since 11 p.m. Saturday, but the closure had been extended because of the fatality. All westbound lanes of the 91 Freeway had re-
opened as of 2:08 p.m. while only two lanes on the other side remained closed, Profant said.