Local News

Shock, relief for survivor of Wake Tech bridge collapse

Posted November 14, 2014 11:11 a.m. EST
Updated November 14, 2014 7:14 p.m. EST

— Hours after a pedestrian bridge collapse on the north Raleigh campus of Wake Technical Community College killed one construction worker and injured four others Thursday morning, a second bridge under construction on the campus collapsed overnight, officials said Friday.

No one was hurt in the second collapse.

The two bridges, which have a similar design, are part of an expansion of Wake Tech's Northern Campus, off Louisburg Road, and are being paid for by bonds approved by voters in 2012. The bridge that collapsed Thursday morning connects a library under construction along Perry Creek Road with nearby classroom buildings, while the second bridge links a parking deck along Success Way with the classroom buildings.

The 140-foot center span of the first bridge collapsed as a crew from Central Concrete of North Carolina was pouring the concrete deck, officials said.

Skanska USA, which has offices in Durham and Morrisville, is the general contractor for the bridges and halted all work Thursday after the first collapse.

People calling 911 to report the collapse said some workers were trapped under the structure when it fell as much as 40 feet to the ground.

Paramedics arrived at the campus within six minutes of the collapse, but officials said getting to the injured took some time because of the construction in the area and the wooded terrain the bridge traversed.

Doris Candela learned her husband, Carlos Chavez, was among those hurt when she tried to call his cellphone Thursday morning and a police officer answered and told her Chavez was being taken to WakeMed.

It was only after she arrived at the hospital that Candela said she began to realize the magnitude of the incident.

"When all of the other guys' wives came in, I was like, 'Whoa, what happened?' This is not just an accident," she said Friday.

Chavez, whose foot was injured and will likely require surgery, was in shock for a while at WakeMed, his wife said.

"He was like, 'I don't know how I'm alive,'" she said.

Chavez, who has never been hurt in his decade of work in the construction industry, told her that images of their three children flashed through his mind immediately after the bridge fell.

Candela said she spent the night in the hospital with her husband, and footage of the splintered bridge structure leaves her speechless.

"I just saw one of the pictures," she said, "and I was like, I don't know. I don't know how to explain it.

"I don’t even know how he’s alive. It’s a miracle."

Chavez and one of the other injured workers were listed in fair condition Friday. Updated conditions of the other two weren't known.

Candela said she plans to wait until Chavez is home to explain to the children what happened to their father and why he will need to use a walker for a while.

One of their daughters "is going to be trying to take (the walker) away form him and be asking a lot of questions," Candela said.

Neal O'Briant, a spokesman for the state Department of Labor, said determining the cause of the collapses and whether any safety violations occurred could take months. Investigators will look at the design of the bridges, the materials used and the construction process, he said.

Skanska, Central Concrete, J.O. Concrete and C.T. Buckner Steel Erection will likely conduct their own investigations as well.