Construction worker’s widow sues over Louisiana bridge accident

posted on:
December 15, 2008

author:
Michael Kunzelman

The widow of a construction foreman who died in October after he and nine other workers fell from the bridge they were building filed a lawsuit against the state of Louisiana and two companies involved in the project.
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The wrongful-death suit claims Eric Blackmon, 44, of Selma, Ala., was tethered to a defective concrete girder while he worked on a new Interstate 10 bridge over Lake Pontchartrain between New Orleans and Slidell. When the girder collapsed, Blackmon and the other workers fell 30 feet before plunging into the water.

Nine of the workers were rescued, but the suit says Blackmon was trapped underwater and drowned.

Blackmon’s widow, Juanita Ann Craig, is seeking unspecified damages in the lawsuit she filed in Orleans Parish Civil District Court against the state Department of Transportation and Development; Volkert & Associates Inc., of Mobile, Ala.; and Gulf Coast Pre-Stress Inc., of Pass Christian, Miss.

Craig’s lawsuit claims the defendants knew about a design problem with the girders and failed to fix it before the girder collapsed.

“Mr. Blackmon and his co-workers that day were doing exactly what they should have been doing,” Jere Beasley, a lawyer for Craig, said in a statement. “These concrete girders are not supposed to fail. This is something that should never have happened.”
Blackmon was a foreman employed by Boh Bros. Construction, but that company isn’t named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

DOTD designed the bridge, Gulf Coast Pre-Stress supplied the girders and support caps for the bridge, and Volkert was responsible for inspecting the materials used in the project, according to Craig’s suit.

DOTD spokesman Brendan Rush declined to comment on the suit but said the department is investigating the collapse.

“Before the year is out, we should be done (investigating) and presenting some kind of finding,” Rush said.

A Volkert spokeswoman said the company hasn’t seen the lawsuit and couldn’t comment on it. A Gulf Coast Pre-Stress company official didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

The $803 million bridge project is designed to replace the twin spans that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

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