Fatal bridge collapse captured on tape
Posted December 5, 2008
Oak Island, N.C. — A town employee was filming construction on the construction of a new bridge from the mainland on Wednesday when he captured a fatal accident on tape.
One worker was killed and two others were injured when a 121-ton concrete girder collapsed. State inspectors are investigating the accident and haven't yet determined the cause of the collapse.
Kyle Thomas, the public information officer for Oak Island, was shooting a documentary on the 4.52-mile bridge across the Intracoastal Waterway and happened to be filming Wednesday when the girder collapsed.
"It sounded like a pop," Thomas said. "I just yelled out."
In his video, workers on the ground can be seen scrambling to get out of the way as the girder comes crashing down from 40 feet above them.
According to witnesses, the girder was laid in place Tuesday, and workers were tethered to it while trying to connect the next beam.
"There's a gap in between each girder, and he was standing in the gap at that time," Thomas said of Jose Montalvo, of Sumter, S.C., who was killed in the accident.
"It appeared that he rode the beam down and was crushed underneath," Oak Island Mayor Johnny Vereen said. "We're all heartbroken."
Ricky Bryant, of Supply, was airlifted to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington with critical injuries. A third worker, Roberto Hernandez, of Sumter, S.C., was treated for minor injuries at a hospital in Southport.
Work on the bridge, which will provide a second link between the 12-mile island and the rest of Brunswick County, has been halted while state Department of Transportation and Department of Labor inspectors investigate the accident. The bridge had been scheduled to be completed by the end of next year.
Town officials hope Thomas' video will help determine why the girder fell.
"This man was tied to the beam as he should be," Thomas said. "But you know, it's like a safety belt. Most of the time, they save your life, but every once in a while, it costs you your life."
The town has set up a fund at BB&T for Montalvo's and Bryant's families under the name "Oak Island Bridge Accident Victims Fund."