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Report: Atlanta man loading a concrete cutting saw when Newton bridge collapsed
Two others seriously injured after all three fall to river below while working on Access Road bridge
Crane bridge collapse
A crane moves equipment from the Yellow River in October 2021 after it fell last night in the collapse of the Access Road bridge. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — A 33-year-old Atlanta man has been identified as the worker who died Tuesday night when the Access Road bridge collapsed as he and two others worked to remove part of it for a replacement project.

Demario Battle, 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 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 near I-20's Exit 88. 

The victim and two others fell into the Yellow River and were submerged but were quickly rescued, Jett said.

Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) representatives arrived on the scene today and were handling the investigation, Jett said.

A Newton County Sheriff's Office incident report stated a deputy was called to the scene about 5:30 p.m. and reported 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."

Garrett, employed by Georgia Bridge & Concrete, was operating the excavator and Battle and Mullins, employed by B&D Concrete Cutting, were standing behind the truck loading the concrete cutting saws 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. 

Battle was transported to Piedmont Newton Hospital where he was pronounced dead. 

Ambulance helicopters transported Garrett to Grady Memorial Hospital after he received serious injuries from the fall while in the excavator; and Mullins to Atlanta Medical Center after suffering serious injuries from the fall while standing on the bridge, 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."

A 500-ton crane was on the scene today to recover equipment, officials reported

The bridge, which ran parallel to I-20, is near the interstate's eastbound lane mere yards from the entrance ramp from Crowell Road. It 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 is the general contractor for the $3.065 million replacement project. Company officials said before the incident it would need a 270-day — about nine months — closure to complete the new bridge, a GDOT spokesman said. 

Reconstruction work began approximately 550 feet west of the existing bridge and extends 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 nearby mobile home community.

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.