CINCINNATI (WWJ/AP) - Authorities say a truck driver from Howell, Mich. is recovering after being involved in an overpass accident along I-75 in Ohio that killed a construction worker.
Eric J. Meyers, 36, slammed into the overpass as the debris landed on the freeway near Hopple Street, just north of downtown Cincinnati around 10:30 p.m. Monday.
Police Chief Jeff Blackwell called it a workplace accident, saying crews were taking down the old bridge when something went "terribly wrong."
"The big-rig driver is very lucky; in a matter of seconds his fate would have probably been different," Blackwell said.
A construction worker, Brandon William Carl, of Augusta, Kentucky, was killed in the collapse. The Hamilton County coroner's office will do an autopsy to determine the cause of his death. Fire officials said his body was recovered from rubble with the help of air bags and special equipment early Tuesday morning, about four hours after the accident.
Police say casualties could have been much higher had the late-night collapse happened at a busy time on the interstate, which carries more than 178,000 vehicles a day through the area five miles north of the Ohio River.
Transportation officials said heavy equipment was being used to separate the concrete deck from structural steel when the span fell. Gary Middleton, an acting deputy director of the transportation department, said it was a "routine operation" being carried out by a major contractor.
Westerville-based Kokosing Construction was doing the demolition under a nearly $91 million contract for a three-year project meant to improve traffic capacity and safety in a busy stretch of I-75. The company had a good safety track record, federal regulators said.
The highway was cleared of concrete and reopened to traffic by Tuesday night.
The cause of the accident is under investigation.
The overpass once carried a ramp that had been a left-hand exit from northbound I-75 and took traffic over the southbound lanes. It was replaced by a ramp that exits to the right from northbound 75 near the University of Cincinnati.
Middleton said Kokosing is a "very safety-conscious" contractor with high ratings.
The firm is responsible for debris cleanup and could be assessed damages for forcing lane closures and other work, Middleton said. Kokosing also could face fines and other disciplinary action by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which was investigating the work-related death.
OSHA has inspected the company in Ohio at least 55 times since 2003 and found fewer than 10 violations, agency spokesman Scott Allen said.
"That's a good track record for any company," said Allen, who could not immediately provide details on the violations.
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