by David Koon
Marie Crawford with Central Arkansas Water confirms that there has been an accident involving contract workers installing water mains underneath the I-430 bridge.
Latest reports are that four workers were in a basket when it fell about 50 feet into the river around 11 a.m. this morning. One worker was able to hold on to the underside of the bridge, the other three fell into the river. Their safety harnesses were attached to the basket, which quickly sank. The sheriff's office is searching the river downstream for survivors now.
Crawford said that the men were employees of Oscar Renda Contracting, Inc. out of Roanoke, Tex. At the time of the accident, they were installing two 30 inch water transmission mains under the bridge -- part of the $43 million North Belt Transmission Project, which will deliver increased flow to Cabot, Jacksonville and other communities north of the river.
See the story here.
UPDATE: Times Photographer Brian Chilson just returned from the river and reports that the cage the men were in weighed nearly 5,000 pounds and is believed to have sunk 20 feet. The men are presumed dead. The fire department boat in the above picture is tethered to the cage and is marking the spot while waiting for a barge to lift the cage from the bottom. The barge is due in about two hours.
UPDATE II: Pulaski County Sheriff's spokesman John Rehrauer says the barge plan has been scrapped. Instead, at 6 p.m. tonight, the northbound lane on 430 will be closed to traffic and a crane will be moved onto the bridge to lift the cage to water level. The bodies will be recovered. Rehrauer said he didn't know what would be done with the cage.
Rehrauer also said an earlier AP report that said a fourth man had survived by hanging on to a portion of the scaffolding was incorrect. The man was not on the platform that the three were attached to. He reported the accident.
OSHA is on the scene, investigating the accident.