Construction mishap at hospital under investigation

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

A construction worker was injured Tuesday when he was pinned under a section of concrete floor being hoisted onto the third level of the parking garage being built at Southeast Missouri Hospital.

According to the Cape Girardeau Fire Department, a crane was installing a reinforced concrete floor section onto the third floor of the new parking garage about 5 p.m. when the crane tipped forward. The operator was forced to release the floor section to prevent the crane from crashing forward into the structure. When the floor section fell, it struck and pinned a construction worker for approximately 30 minutes.

The man sustained injuries to his legs. Authorities, citing medical privacy restrictions, would not release the man's name or condition.

The section fell hard enough to put two large holes in the concrete floor where it landed.

Construction has been suspended and the 700 block of Broadway has been closed to all traffic until engineers from St. Louis have inspected the stability of the building, fire department officials said. That is expected to take at least two days.

Police chief Steve Strong said at the scene that the first reports were that several people had been trapped under the fallen section. Later reports, he said, confirmed that only one man was trapped.

Rescue workers used a pry bar to lift the heavy concrete piece from the man's legs, the fire department reported. As they pried, they also slipped four-by-four wood cribbing underneath the victim until they were able to slide him out from under the floor section.

Paramedics then hoisted him onto a stretcher and cautiously carried him down the steps to the ground floor, then across the construction site to an awaiting ambulance. He was taken to the hospital's emergency room.

Police and fire department officials spent most of Tuesday evening piecing together the events that led to the accident. Witnesses said it appeared that the cable snapped as it was loading one of the sections from the tractor-trailer at the site up to the third level. The cable, minus its giant hook, dangled from the boom of the crane it was attached to.

Kevin Sharp of Cape Girardeau said he heard the crash all the way at his home on Dunklin Street about five blocks away while he was walking his German shepherd.

Jane Koch, a nurse at the hospital, was off duty and at home on nearby Sunset Boulevard when she heard the concrete hit.

Living close to Broadway, Koch said, it's easy to tell the sounds of a traffic accident. But this was different.

"I looked out the front room window and I saw the cable swinging," she said. "As soon as I heard that crash I knew what happened."

Koch and her husband, Scott, said they came to the site because their nephew and some of his friends were working there. They were relieved to hear that only one person was injured and he had survived.

"You can always replace that concrete," Scott Koch said.

lredeffer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

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