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OSHA probing incident that led to Newton bridge worker's death
Work halted 'until further notice' on Access Road bridge replacement after man killed
Bridge collapse excavator
A 500-ton crane is used to lift an excavator from the Yellow River Wednesday, Oct. 20, after the bridge on which the heavy equipment was working collapsed Tuesday night. A construction worker died in the incident. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — A federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation has halted work "until further notice" on replacement of the Access Road bridge after a construction worker died when the bridge collapsed during work to remove part of it.

Demario Battle, 33, of Atlanta, an employee of B&D Concrete Cutting Inc., was killed when the 84-year-old bridge fell into the Yellow River Tuesday, Oct. 19, about 5:30 p.m.

Two other workers, Robert Mullins of Atlanta and Michael Garrett of Clermont, were injured and were listed in serious condition at area hospitals, said Newton County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Caitlin Jett.

The incident occurred after the three began sawing and demolition activities on the first of four bridge spans as part of a project to remove the bridge and replace it with a new one only yards from the on-ramp from Almon Road to I-20 eastbound. 

The three men and an excavator, truck and large concrete-cutting saws fell into the Yellow River. The workers were submerged but were quickly rescued, Jett said.

A Newton County sheriff's deputy reported being called to the scene Tuesday and finding a 70-foot section of the bridge had fallen about 50 feet into the Yellow River.

"Sitting on the 70-foot section was a large 520 excavator facing westbound in the south lane, a large 550 series truck facing westbound in the north lane with two large concrete-cutting saws behind the truck," the report stated.

Garrett, employed by general contractor Georgia Bridge & Concrete, was operating the excavator and Battle and Mullins, employed by subcontractor B&D, were loading the saws into the rear of the truck when the bridge collapsed.

"Demario Battle received serious injuries from the fall while standing on the bridge and (was) possibly struck by a cutting saw," the report stated. 

He was transported to Piedmont Newton Hospital where he was pronounced dead about an hour later according to the report. 

Ambulance helicopters transported Garrett to Grady Memorial Hospital and Mullins to Atlanta Medical Center, the report stated.

A spokesman for Atlanta-based B&D — a subcontractor on the project — said it was the first worker death in the company's 33-year history.

B&D owner Michael Tackett said in a statement, "All of us here at B&D Concrete Cutting are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our employees and the injuries sustained by the other as well as the Georgia Bridge employee.

"We are fully cooperating with the federal, state and local officials along with the general contractor Georgia Bridge in their investigation of this tragic event," Tackett said.

A GoFundMe page has been established for Battle's family at https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-the-family-of-demario-battle?qid=ae651bdacfa5858952403624047c33fe.

On Wednesday, a 500-ton crane removed the equipment from the river. OSHA representatives arrived on the scene Wednesday and took over the investigation from the sheriff's office, Jett said.

OSHA's investigation has halted work on the project "until further notice," a GDOT spokesman said.

The bridge, which ran parallel to I-20 near edge of the interstate's eastbound lanes, was built in 1937 and classified as "structurally deficient" which required it be replaced, a GDOT release stated.

A bridge is classified as “structurally deficient” if either the deck, superstructure, substructure or culvert are rated as being in poor or worse condition, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

Tucker-based Georgia Bridge and Concrete began work Monday on the $3.065 million replacement project. Company officials said before the incident it would need 270 days — about nine months — to complete the new bridge, a GDOT spokesman said. 

Reconstruction work was to begin approximately 550 feet west of the existing bridge and extend east 550 feet for about a quarter of a mile. 

As proposed, the 320-foot long by 43-foot wide bridge is to include two walls along the approaches south of the road to minimize impacts to a river pump station and the nearby Riverside mobile home community.

A GDOT spokesman said he did not anticipate the incident causing a major delay in the project.

Access Road is a major east-west route between downtown Covington and western Newton County and Conyers — carrying more than 9,000 vehicles per day.