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Bypass Worker Dies in Construction Accident

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

By Sean Rabé

Amador Ledger-Dispatch

A man working on the Highway 49 bypass died Thursday morning after he fell 50 feet from a portion of a bridge being constructed over Amador Creek between Drytown and Amador City.

Investigations by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health and the safety officer of the company contracted to build the bridge, are pending on the death of Robert Dale Foulks, 52, of Placerville.

“This is a very traumatic experience,” said Randy Jenco, the president of Viking Construction. Viking Construction has been contracted to build two bridges on the bypass project. “We have a lot of upset people here.”

According to reports from the Amador County Sheriff´s Office and corroborated by Jenco, Foulks, who was employed as a bridge builder with Viking Construction, was standing on a steel beam that had just been lowered into place by a crane at the construction site. Foulks had secured himself to the beam with a safety harness and was unhooking a clamp that attached the crane´s cable to the beam when, for reasons yet to be determined, the beam rolled out of place and fell some 50 feet to the ground below, taking Foulks with it.

“According to the workers who where on the opposite sides of the beam, Foulks had turned the clamp to release the beam and motioned to the crane operator that it was clear,” Amador County Undersheriff Karl Knobelauch said. “Both of the other workers concurred that Foulks had released the clamp and that it was clear to move the crane cable.” The beam tipped when the cable was being moved, Knobelauch said.

“Everything we have seen to date shows that our safety precautions were followed,” Jenco said. He indicated that OSHA, the ACSO and the company´s safety officer had interviewed several witnesses at the scene. “We will be doing some testing on the crane as well,” he said.

Work on the bypass was halted Thursday and Friday while investigators conducted interviews. Jenco said his company assisted Foulks family and had provided counseling to employees who had witnessed the accident during the time off.

“Obviously, our first priority is to help the family during their time of need,” Jenco said. “Secondly, we have provided counseling for the workers. Everybody is pretty broken up around here,” he said of the company. “This is something that you never think will happen and when it does it really tears you up.”

Jenco added that work on the bypass resumed Monday, when crews began repairing damage caused by the falling beam.

Jenco said Foulks had worked for Viking Construction for about a year. He is survived by his wife of 33 years, Sheila and a son, according to an obituary appearing in the Placerville Mountain Democrat. A funeral service for Foulks will be held today in Cameron Park.

Reprinted with permission from Amador Ledger-Dispatch