The company employing the construction worker who was killed on a Chattanooga bridge Friday afternoon has been cited for safety and health violations in six separate incidents since 2004, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Three more OSHA cases against Seminole Equipment Inc., based in Tarpon Springs, Fla., remain open, meaning violations may be added or deleted.
All the incidents took place in New Jersey and involved painting and paper hanging on highways, according to OSHA’s Web site. The citations were issued for failure to have proper fall protection equipment and not having proper accident prevention signs and tags, records show.
The events that led to the death of Tony Diasakos, 42, on the South Crest Road bridge over Interstate 24 on Friday did not involve circumstances similar to those referenced in the citations, Seminole Equipment office manager Jim Klimis said.
“We feel we know what’s happened with all the witnesses we had on the bridge and what-not,” Mr. Klimis said of the Chattanooga fatality. “It was just a freaky accident.”
Mr. Diasakos and other crewmen were moving a cable along the top of the bridge when Mr. Diasakos dropped his section, causing the cable to dip into a U-shaped loop over the interstate, Mr. Klimis said. When a tractor-trailer drove past on I-24, the loop caught the top of the truck, pulling the two cable ends toward each other, Mr. Klimis said.
He said some crewmen ran while others ducked for cover. Mr. Diasakos dropped to the ground and was struck in the head by a hook on one end of the cable, Mr. Klimis said.
BY THE NUMBERS
* 153 — Fatal occupational injuries in Tennessee in 2006
* 139 — Fatal occupational injuries in Tennessee in 2005
* 29 — Fatal occupational injuries in Tennessee in 2006 caused by contact with objects and equipment
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
He died at the scene from blunt force injury to the head, according to the Hamilton County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Another man, Tony Damalos, was taken to Erlanger hospital with head and leg injuries. Erlanger personnel said they had no information about him Monday.
Chattanooga police initially reported that Mr. Diasakos and another man were hanging by a cable when it dropped toward traffic. When a tractor-trailer drove by, it hit them, swinging them back up onto the bridge, initial reports said.
On Sunday, the police department issued a news release saying Mr. Diasakos was killed by the hook after the cable was pulled by a tractor-trailer. The driver of the truck, Phillip Byrd of Cohutta, Ga., was not cited, police spokeswoman Sgt. Jerri Weary said in a news release.
The language barrier between police and the crewmen — many of whom are Greek — prompted incorrect information to be reported, Sgt. Weary said.
“Police were later able to determine the nature of the incident after speaking with several witnesses and workers and reconstructing the scene,” she said.
Mr. Klimis, however, said about 90 percent of the men speak fluent English.
“I don’t know if (police and the media) were in too much of a rush with all the chaos going on and misinterpreted it,” he said.
Tennessee investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will take between four and six weeks to investigate the accident, talk with witnesses and company owners and take pictures of the site, spokeswoman Milissa Reierson said. Citations may be issued in any work-related accident if officials determine a company was at fault for improper training or safety, among other things, she said.
“In some cases, it could have just been an accident and all the safety precautions were in place,” Ms. Reierson said.
State OSHA personnel have investigated 17 work-related fatalities this year, not including Friday’s incident, according to the department. In 2007, they investigated 36 such deaths, 11 of which involved workers struck by objects that were not trees, such as steel beams and tools.
OSHA’s Southeast region spokesman Michael Wald, based in Atlanta, said he could not say whether Seminole Equipment’s number of violations is typical.
“We encourage companies not to have violations so they will not have injuries or fatalities if they’re in compliance with OSHA standards,” he said.
The local bridge crew is scheduled to return to work May 28, Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said. A department SmartWay camera damaged during the accident has not yet been repaired, she said.
“It will be a while before it is back up and running,” Ms. Flynn said.
Video: Fatal accident at Ridge Cut bridgeOne bridge construction worker was killed and another was hospitalized in critical condition after a cable they were hanging from beneath a bridge over Interstate 24 was struck by a passing tractor-trailer on Friday, Chattanooga police said. The men, identified as workers with Seminole Equipment based in Tarpon Springs, Fla., were flung to the top of the South Crest Road bridge and fell to the bridge roadway, according to police.