No charges filed after boat carrying bridge workers capsizes - WDRB 41 Louisville News

No charges filed after boat carrying bridge workers capsizes

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Hazardous waters caused a Walsh Construction boat to capsize on the Ohio River last month, injuring three workers, according to an Indiana Department of Natural Resources report.

No charges were filed as a result of the investigation by Indiana Conservation Officer Bo Spainhour, who ruled the incident was accidental.

The report, obtained under the Indiana Access to Public Records Act, doesn’t address the circumstances that led an aluminum johnboat to become unmoored from a barge used in building a new downtown bridge.  One of the workers told Spainhour that the boat had “come loose from where it was tied off,” according to the report.

Walsh expects its internal investigation to be complete “very shortly,” project manager Max Rowland said. He declined to comment on any specific findings but said the company hasn’t made any changes to its water safety training.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened its own investigation into the incident that occurred after midnight on May 31.

A Walsh spokesman declined to say whether the workers are still employed by the company. A LinkedIn profile under the name of one of the men identified in the accident report indicates that he no longer works for Walsh; the man, who was listed as an assistant project manager for Walsh, could not be reached for comment.

According to the Department of Natural Resources report and Walsh, the employees boarded a second boat in an effort to retrieve the boat that had broken free and drifted toward the floodgates at the Falls of the Ohio.

Once they approached the loose boat, “they then realized how much water was going through the gates and tried to get the boat out of the hazardous situation,” the report states. “By that time it was already too late and the boat they were in was slammed sideways into the gates and the entire crew was dumped over the side.”

Based on interviews, Spainhour concluded that all three workers were wearing life jackets, and that both vessels involved in the accident were equipped with U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices. The boat carrying the men has not been found.

Walsh is building the $1.3 billion downtown portion of the Ohio River Bridges Project. Last fall, the Kentucky Labor Cabinet and Walsh agreed to a “Construction Partnership Program” allowing state labor officials to monitor safety needs, injuries and any hazards identified at the site.

The Labor Cabinet denied WDRB News’ request, made under the state’s Open Records Act, for reports generated as part of the construction monitoring program because they contain “confidential” information restricted by federal law.

Walsh declined to provide the reports voluntarily, but Rowland said there was “nothing mentioned at all” concerning maritime safety during site visits prior to May 31.

The state safety program sets a goal of maintaining injury rates at or below OSHA’s national average for the construction industry. Rowland wasn’t able to provide that injury data last week; a spokesman didn’t respond to a request for the information.

Asked about Walsh’s safety record, Rowland said: “I think it’s excellent. We’ve had very few recordable incidents, and we stress safety first.”

One of the Walsh employees was able to swim to the Indiana shore after their boat was “slammed sideways” into the floodgates, according to the Department of Natural Resources report. A fisherman pulled the two other workers from the river.

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