Four Companies Cited in Fatal Bridge Barrier Collapse

A Washington state family of three died when a 110-foot concrete section fell onto their car in April 2015.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries on Monday cited and fined four construction contractors for a demolition job gone wrong last April on the Bonney Lake bridge project. A 110-foot section of concrete barrier fell onto a car below, killing Josh and Vanessa Ellis and their eight-month-old son, Hudson, as it passed beneath the SR 410 overpass.

The general contractor for pedestrian improvements on the overpass, WHH Nisqually Federal Services, of Tacoma, had contracted with HighMark Concrete Contractors of Buckley to do the concrete work. HighMark Concrete in turn contracted with Staton Companies of Eugene, Ore., to remove part of the existing bridge, and Staton hired Hamilton Construction of Springfield, Ore., to cut the concrete barrier. All four companies had workers on site, according to L&I. "Demolition is one of the most hazardous operations in construction," said Anne Soiza, assistant director for the L&I Division of Occupational Safety & Health. "Preparing and following a specific safety plan that anticipates the worst case conditions is critical. Unfortunately, that didn't happen in this case."

The agency fined Staton $58,800 for one willful and two serious violations for exposing workers to hazards while demolishing the concrete barrier; Staton had not provided a demolition plan to its subcontractor, according to L&I's investigation, which found Staton had concerns about the possibility of the barrier falling down during cutting but continued with the work.

Hamilton Construction was fined $14,700 for three serious violations for exposing workers to essentially the same hazards, but the violations were not found to be willful. WHH Nisqually was fined $8,400 for two serious violations for not ensuring a workplace free from recognized hazards and for exposing workers on the lower level to the possibility of an unplanned collapse, and Highmark Concrete Contractors was fined $4,900 for one serious violation for not ensuring a workplace free from recognized hazards.

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