At 11.50 a.m. yesterday, 68 workers were working on a 384-foot portion of Melbourne's new $42 million bridge when calamity struck. The 2000-ton bridge fell unexpectedly, falling into the western Yarra bank. Many of the victims died while riding on the 384 ft. section that had been lifted up for repair work.
The first sign of trouble came at 10:45 a.m., when one of the workers on the project reported hearing a "loud bang" coming from the direction of the west tower. A few minutes later, another worker near the scene saw part of the bridge collapse into the river.
Within minutes, police and emergency crews had arrived on the scene to find the body of a man who had apparently jumped off the bridge in an attempt to save his colleagues. Police say this was probably not because he felt unsafe working on the bridge - rather, it appears that he must have realized what was happening and decided to go down with it.
A total of 14 men were working on the bridge at the time of the accident. Only two survived. One man was found trapped under a beam about 40 feet from the ground and managed to call for help before he died. The other man was discovered by a passerby who called emergency services. He was taken to hospital but died there several days later.
Thirty-five At 11:50 a.m. on October 15, 1970, two years into the bridge's construction, the 112-metre (367-foot) span between piers 10 and 11 collapsed and dropped 50 metres (164 ft) to the land and water below. Thirty-five construction workers were murdered and 18 were wounded in what is now considered Australia's worst industrial catastrophe.
The cause of the collapse was never determined but it is believed that one or more of the steel girders may have given way under excessive stress from heavy vehicles crossing them during construction. Another possibility is that wind conditions at the time of the accident may have been just right for forking beams to snap like twigs.
All casualties occurred within the first hour after the fall. There were no survivors. The men were working on the far side of the bridge from Brisbane, which is 250 kilometres (155 miles) away, so none of them had any idea what had happened until they arrived at the scene several hours later. Investigators estimated that only 1 in 20,000 bridges suffers a fatal collapse during construction. This fact suggests that the Westgate Bridge was being built under unusually dangerous conditions.
The tragedy led to major changes in work practices and government regulations governing the construction industry. For example, the work period was increased from 8 hours daily to 10 hours daily, with half of that time spent awake.
4 men When the 146m-long central span was floated across the harbour before being lifted into place, there were over 30 mph winds. More than 1,000 laborers worked on the project, including 180 sent out from the UK. Four men fell to their deaths during the bridge's construction. There is a memorial to them on the North Shore.
The total cost of the bridge was $2.5 million (equivalent to $25 million in today's money). At the time, it was considered one of the most expensive buildings in the world. It was designed by Walter Burley Griffin and built by John Mardel Company. The bridge was opened by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) on 5 January 1936. He had been invited by the Mayor of Auckland to view the city from its center span.
After the death of one worker due to an accident on the site, work was stopped for several days while safety measures were investigated. This incident caused many people to call for change to work practices, leading to improvements being made that later became standard practice on construction sites around the world.
Today, drivers must pay attention to traffic signs and instructions from police officers when driving near the harbor bridge. The central part of the bridge is narrow with sharp curves, so drivers should not go faster than 25 miles per hour. The speed limit is 60 miles per hour on the western end of the bridge where there are no traffic lights or stop signs.
12 employees During the bridge's construction, at least 12 laborers were murdered. The first accident occurred when the cofferdam for the New Jersey tower's north base crumbled under the full force of the Hudson River, killing three workers. Another fatal incident occurred when a steel beam fell on top of a truck carrying part of the bridge deck, killing the driver.
The last death during construction occurred in September 1989 when a 42-year-old worker was struck by an automobile while walking his bicycle across the new bridge approach road near its midpoint. The man had gone to the site to check on the progress of his shift and was not involved in the accident that killed him. After working on the bridge for about a year, he was employed as a project engineer by Willis A. Lee Company, which was overseeing the installation of equipment for lighting and ventilation systems.
The number of deaths during construction reflects the magnitude of work involved in building a major infrastructure project such as the George Washington Bridge. Many factors can contribute to these fatalities including heavy machinery driving over roofs without noticing people working underneath them, tunnels collapsing on workers, and bridges collapsing on drivers.
In conclusion, there have been 12 deaths during the construction of the George Washington Bridge. These accidents were caused by faulty equipment, poor work practices, and lack of safety measures.