Demario Battle was the father of nine.
His cousin, Lakeia Kiwii Ashmeade, said in October that the 31-year-old had recently taken a job with the concrete cutting company that was helping to dismantle the Access Road bridge to make way for a new, safer one.
Now, Ashmeade believes a suggestion by a group of Newton residents is a fitting tribute to someone who lost his life trying to make way for a new, safer structure for motorists.
The suggestion is to name the replacement bridge for Battle.
“I have spoken with some of the family members over the weekend and they think it’s a great idea to name the bridge after Demario,” Ashmeade told The News. “It would be a great reminder of his legacy to him and his children.”
Battle was working hard to support his family, Ashmeade told a TV station.
“He was trying to do right,” Ashmeade said.
But Battle lost his life on Oct. 19, 2021, when too much weight was placed on an “overstressed” section of the bridge and caused a 70-foot section of the structure to collapse.
Battle and two others fell into the Yellow River, along with the bridge section containing a concrete saw weighing more than 1,700 pounds. The saw struck and killed Battle, who was employed by B&D Concrete Cutting of Atlanta, according to a report from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
A seven-month federal investigation by OSHA determined that Battle’s employer and a Tucker bridge company failed to follow required safety standards that could have prevented the incident.
It determined that B&D and Georgia Bridge and Concrete LLC of Tucker did not conduct a proper engineering survey on the demolition project
The work was part of a $3.065 million project to replace the 85-year-old bridge with a more modern structure. .
The Access Road bridge ran parallel to I-20 near the edge of the interstate’s eastbound lanes. It was built in 1937 and classified as “structurally deficient” which required it to be replaced, a GDOT release stated.
It carried more than 9,000 vehicles per day before traffic was detoured prior to the start of demolition work in October 2021.
After the incident, work resumed on the old bridge’s demolition in February and completion date for the new structure was set at Sept. 30, 2022.
B&D Concrete Cutting Inc. is a construction contractor specializing in cutting and removal within commercial, industrial, transportation, aviation and health care industries. Georgia Bridge and Concrete LLC — formerly known as Sunbelt Structures Inc. — specializes in bridge and heavy civil construction, the OSHA release stated.
OSHA investigators cited B&D and Georgia Bridge – the project’s prime contractor — for not ensuring a competent person had performed an engineering survey before allowing workers to begin the dismantling project, a news release stated.
Company personnel also did not ensure procedures were in place to prevent structural parts from being overstressed during dismantling operations — exposing employees to “fall and struck-by hazards,” the release stated.
OSHA Area Office Director Joshua Turner said if B&D and Georgia Bridge had conducted a proper survey as required, “the tragic loss of one worker and serious injuries to another may not have happened.”
“Established safety standards exist to ensure workers get home safely and don’t leave families, friends and communities to grieve a preventable fatality,” Turner said.
OSHA also cited Georgia Bridge and Concrete for failing to keep a fire extinguisher within 75 feet of two equipment refueling stations.
Any effort to name the bridge for Battle apparently will have to wait until early 2023 when the Georgia General Assembly convenes. Any naming of bridges on state roads, such as Access Road, requires a joint resolution of both houses of the General Assembly and the governor’s signature before the naming can be done, according to state law.
Battle lived in Atlanta but he’s like a lot of Newton Countians — working hard to make ends meet while working to raise a family in trying times.
He may not have been a major landowner or politician who often have such structures named for them or their families. But he’s no less deserving.
Naming the new Access Road bridge for Demario Battle would keep his name alive and continue to be a “great reminder of his legacy.”
Tom Spigolon is news editor of The Covington News. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.