Wake Tech bridge worker: "It was like a bomb"
Posted November 16, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — After falling 40 feet to the ground, Jose Hernandez thought if he could open his eyes, then he had won.
Hernandez, 43, was working on a pedestrian bridge at Wake Technical Community College’s Northern Campus on Thursday when it collapsed, sending him and four others to the ground.
He spoke about the incident Sunday while recovering at his Raleigh home. He wore a neck brace due to his neck and back injuries.
Hernandez said he was working in a trench when he heard a loud noise. Then the ground buckled from under him.
“It was like a bomb,” he said, in Spanish, of the noise.
After the group plummeted to the ground, Hernandez’ close friend, Jose Luis Rosales-Nava, 42, a father of three, was trapped under a board.
He wasn’t responding.
“Hold on, hold on,” he remembered telling his friend.
Rosales was later pronounced dead.
The bridge's 140-foot center span collapsed as a crew from Central Concrete of North Carolina poured the concrete deck, officials said. The bridge will connect a library under construction along Perry Creek Road with nearby classroom buildings.
Paramedics arrived at the campus within six minutes of the collapse, but officials said getting to the injured took time due to the construction in the area and the wooded terrain the bridge traversed.
A second bridge under construction on campus, which will connect a parking deck along Success Way with classroom buildings, collapsed Friday morning. No injuries were reported in that incident.
The two bridges, which have a similar design, are part of a campus expansion project on the Louisburg Road campus paid for by bonds approved by voters in 2012.
Officials with Skanska USA, the general contractor for both bridges, have not said what caused either collapse. Determining a cause, and any safety violations, could take months, state Department of Labor officials said.
Two workers remained in the hospital Sunday while Hernandez and another man have been released.
For Hernandez, who has worked in construction for 30 years, continues to have difficulty sleeping.
He thinks about how things could’ve been much worse.
“Something could have happened to the kids,” he said, referring to Wake Tech students.
He has also forgiven those who may have caused the accident.
“It doesn't do me any good to judge them,” he said. “I have to forgive them because what is done is done. I just want them to make changes so that it doesn't happen again.”