Operator Dies after Excavator Tips Over the Side of a Bridge into River

Washington Case Report: 08WA001
August 2014


On January 15, 2008 a 62-year-old equipment operator was fatally injured when the hydraulic excavator he was operating tipped over the side of a bridge, falling 60 feet into the river below. The operator was working on the demolition of the bridge by removing cut concrete slabs from the bridge deck. He was using the hydraulic excavator which was equipped with a type of bucket attachment (Slab Crab) designed for bridge deck and concrete slab removal work. He was removing the concrete slabs in order to position them for removal. On the fatal lift, the concrete slab was freely suspended from the Slab Crab with a two leg bridle chain sling. In order to clear the guardrail, the operator extended the arm of the excavator to raise the load. This caused the load to exceed the excavator’s load limit radius. The excavator became unbalanced and tipped towards the edge of the bridge deck. The operator attempted to correct the imbalance by arming-in, or decreasing the distance of the load from the excavator. However, arming in the load caused the excavator to slide towards the edge of the bridge. The operator was trying to get out of the cab when the excavator tipped over the edge of the bridge. Workers immediately activated the emergency response protocols. The operator was retrieved from the river in less than 10 minutes and CPR was performed in the rescue boat. EMS arrived at the scene within 15 minutes. The operator was pronounced dead at the hospital approximately 1½ hours after the excavator tipped over the bridge.

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Page last reviewed: November 18, 2015