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Construction Worker Killed, 3 Hurt When Beam Falls From Addams Tollway Bridge

Updated 04/05/16 - 6:11 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A construction worker was killed and three others were injured when a 45-ton steel beam fell as it was being removed from the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway bridge over Touhy Avenue in Des Plaines early Tuesday.

Des Plaines Fire Chief Alan Wax said four workers were in a construction lift several feet above ground under the bridge, assisting with removal of the beam, when it fell on them around 3:40 a.m.

Des Plaines Police Chief Bill Kushner said two cranes were holding the beam in place when it fell.

"As they were moving some steel across the roadway, apparently the load shifted, the girder came down. It's 187 feet long, and 45 tons of steel that came down," Kushner said.


Three workers suffered minor injuries, and one worker suffered critical injuries and was pronounced dead at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, according to Kushner. He has been identified as 47-year-old Vicente Santoyo, of Berwyn, Kushner said.

A 15-year neighbor who didn't want to be identified called him helpful and kind.

"He was very nice person," she said.

U.S. Labor Department spokesman Scott Allen said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened an investigation. Preliminary findings indicated the workers were cutting steel bracing between the beams being removed from the bridge, when one of the beams rolled off a pier support, striking Santoyo.

"We're still looking into the specifics of this, and the preliminary reports indicate that the strap or chain that was supporting the beam may have failed, so we will look to try to determine exactly what happened, and try to find out whether the company was following OSHA standards and regulations," Allen said.

OSHA is looking into the work history of Omega Demolition Corporation, an Elgin-based subcontractor that employed Santoyo, as well as the general contractor, New York-based Judlau Contracting Inc. Investigators were interviewing workers who witnessed the accident.

"OSHA is currently on scene and will conduct a thorough investigation into this tragic and preventable incident," said OSHA acting area director Larry Joswiak. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the worker."

Allen estimated the OSHA investigation would take six months to complete, but already called this an accident that didn't have to happen.

"There's no reason a worker should not come home from work at the end of the day," said OSHA Chicago spokesman Scott Allen. "This is preventable if all OSHA standards and regulations are followed."

Local officials said the beam came from a closed section of the Addams Tollway, so there was no danger to any traffic on Interstate 90.

Wax said engineers also would have to determine how to remove the beam from the road so Touhy Avenue could be reopened to traffic.

"They're going to have to figure out how exactly to get it out of here. Whether they can lift it out, or they need to cut it, we just don't know at this point," Wax said.

It is questionable whether Touhy Avenue between Wolf Road and Lee Street will be open in time for Wednesday morning's rush hour.

Officials say workers will cut up the beam in pieces to remove it.

Kushner expected crews would have to remove a second beam -- which already was set to be removed Tuesday night -- before reopening Touhy.

The work on the Addams Tollway bridge was part of a $2.5 billion reconstruction project between Elgin and the Tri-State Tollway. The project includes the rebuilding of several Addams Tollway bridges, including Golf Road, Arlington Heights Road, Busse Road, Oakton Street, Mount Prospect Road, Wolf Road, Touhy Avenue, Mannheim Road, and Higgins Road.

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