Worker Killed in Connecticut Bridge Accident

STRATFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Two cranes collapsed Tuesday at the site of a highway bridge that is being replaced, killing a crane operator.

The accident involved cranes on barges in the Housatonic River at the site of the new Sikorsky Memorial Bridge, which opened in November to replace an older bridge of the same name.

The cranes, working on removing the old bridge, were lifting a girder when one crane fell off its barge and into the river and the boom of the other crane snapped, said Chris Cooper, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

A crane operator was pulled from the water and taken to Bridgeport Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, fire and hospital officials said. No other injuries were reported.

The state is replacing the steel-grated bridge that connected the Merritt and Wilbur Cross parkways in Stratford with an 1,800-foot, solid-deck span.

The DOT began plotting demolition and removal of the old bridge in 1996 and started construction in 1999. The new Sikorsky Memorial Bridge, in use since November, is to be widened once the old bridge is torn down. The $96 million project is scheduled to be completed by 2005.

The victim worked for Balfour Beatty, the general contractor on the project, officials said. An employee who answered the phone at the company's Connecticut office declined to comment further.

In 2001, an excavator lifting a piece of equipment as part of the project fell into the river, said Robert W. Kowalski, of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. No one was seriously injured in that accident, for which Balfour was fined $2,500, Kowalski said.

Tuesday's was the second deadly mishap involving construction cranes in as many days. On Monday, a crane piecing together an interstate bridge in Toledo, Ohio, collapsed, killing three workers and injuring five.