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Report: Caltrans Approved Plan Before Deadly Collapse
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January 20, 2015
8:24 AM
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Caltrans, after initially expressing reservations, approved a subcontractor’s plan to demolish the Pachappa railroad bridge over the 91 in Riverside, California last May – a plan blamed by state investigators for the death of a worker when the bridge collapsed during demolition.

The state Department of Industrial Relations subsequently fined the subcontractor, Hard Rock Equipment Rentals of Corona, for its decision to support the half of the bridge that collapsed with a Caterpillar loader, a piece of equipment that investigators determined was not fit for the job and became overloaded.

It was that idea to support the bridge with the loader that appeared to play a role in persuading Caltrans to finally accept the demolition plan.

The revelations about the approval by Caltrans – the California Department of Transportation – are contained in the daily reports filed by Caltrans engineer Al Alina that were attached to separate $10 million claims filed against the state by 10 family members of the deceased worker, foreman Okesene Faasalele Sr., 59, of Long Beach.

The plan was to cut the steel beams to split the structure, then remove one half at a time. A crane supported the first side that was removed. According to the Caltrans engineer’s reports and investigators with Cal/OSHA – which is overseen by the Department of Industrial Relations – the side on which Faasalele was working was supported by two abutments and a Caterpillar loader.

Hard Rock co-owner Ken Hulett said in a past interview that the loader was not being used to support the bridge.

Faasalele, who worked for Hard Rock, was a veteran of 20 similar bridge demolitions, Hulett said. As Faasalele cut the last beam, his side of the bridge collapsed. Faasalele, tethered to the bridge by a harness to prevent a fall, went down with it.

In fining Hard Rock $50,850 for seven violations, the Department of Industrial Relations said Hard Rock used the loader for something for which it was not designed – to support a section of the bridge. Victoria Maglio, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Industrial Relations, said the loader was carrying more weight than it could handle and got pulled in the direction of the bridge.

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