3 Believed Dead In Scaffolding Collapse

By: AP
By: AP

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Rain and swift river currents Thursday prevented divers from searching for the remains of two men presumed drowned when scaffolding underneath an Arkansas River bridge collapsed.

A third victim's body was recovered about eight hours after Wednesday morning's collapse, which threw the men 100 feet into the river. They three were working on a project to install a water main beneath the bridge for the Central Arkansas Water utility.

Recovery teams could not enter the water because it was raining and currents in the already-swollen river made it too dangerous, said John Rehrauer, a spokesman for the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office.

"There will not be an active search," he said. "In most cases like this the bodies will show up 48, 72 hours depending on the conditions."

Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors would lead investigation into the accident, he said.

The body that was found had been entangled in rope that was attached to the heavy platform. Names of the victims were not released.

"They were cheerful guys, trying to make a living like everybody else," said Charles Jackson, a fellow worker. He said he had been on the platform earlier Wednesday and noticed no safety problems.

The scaffolding was big enough to hold the men, two generators and a welding machine, according to Little Rock Fire Department Capt. Jason Weaver. "A lot of metal, a lot of weight," he said.

Hours after the accident, a crane was used to lift the scaffolding — approximately 40 feet long by 6 feet wide — about 50 feet from the water, then lower it to a barge positioned below. The wreckage landed on the barge's deck with a crash audible several hundred yards away.

Marie Crawford, a spokeswoman for Central Arkansas Water, said the men were employed by Oscar Renda Contracting Inc. of Roanoke, Texas.

Corey Wells, treasurer and controller for Renda Contracting, said the company was contacting the workers' family members.

The water main installation is part of a $43 million project to increase the utility's capacity to deliver water to systems on the north side of the river.

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