Kittery, ME Bridge Staging Collapses, June 1970



Kittery, Maine (AP) -- Four construction workers are known dead and five more are seriously injured as a result of a staging collapsing early this morning at Kittery, Maine.
Witnesses at the scene said there were 12 men working on the platform on the bridge, being built across the Piscataqua River as part of Interstate 95.
Three of the workers were dead on arrival at Portsmouth Hospital. Another died there 45 minutes later. Two were reported in serious condition and two others were treated for injuries and released.
Three other workers were admitted to York Hospital in Maine, but the extent of their injuries, was not known as of noon.
The accident occurred at 7:20 a.m., State Police said. Workers at the scene said the 12 by 30-foot staging broke loose from its holdings, and one side of the platform dropped vertically.
Seven of the men fell instantly onto debris about 70 feet below, officials reported. The other five managed to hang on to beams and supports on the underside of the bridge.
One of the five, however, became tired and let go of his hanghold, and fell onto a pile of broken concrete and rubble. Witnesses said he was one of the men who was killed.
The other four men hung on to the beams for almost two hours before two cranes, one from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and one from the Kittery Fire Department, could pluck them from the bridge.
Complete identification of the victims was not immediately available. However, officials identified three of the workers as MICHAEL A. WOOD, 23, Rye.
GEORGE B. DINSMORE, 29, West Rockport, Me.
KARL KOSKI, 20, Portsmouth.
The 12 men were removing wood paneling from concrete molds on the underside of the span when the accident occurred. Their platform, a sliding rectangle of wood and steel that was used to allow them to work back and forth under the bridge, was held in place by two steel tracks.
But, workmen said, the steel tracks were lacking the necessary counterweights to hold them in place when the platform reached the outer edge of the bridge. They said the counterweights had not been moved from the adjoining pier to the one where the platform was being used.
As a result, the worker said, the weight was too much for the steel tracks to bear, and they snapped at their outer ends, breaking at a weld spot.
After Kittery police received the first call, seven ambulances were dispatched to the scene. Two of the men who managed to hang on, climbed back onto the bridge themselves.
Two other men, however, had to be taken from the broken platform by ladder. One of them reportedly hung there until 9:30. Officials said his arm was caught in some twisted steel and was badly crushed, but that the mangle hand held him from the 70-foot plunge until he could be rescued.
The bridge, scheduled for completion in the fall of 1972, was begun in the spring of 1968. It will serve as a link on Interstate 95. The accident occurred between the third and fourth piers of the span.
None of the men fell into the water. At the site of the accident, the bridge is being built on a high-rise angle to allow it to pass over the river high enough for shipping to pass beneath it.
Maine Highway Commission Inspector Harry Cook of Portland said he was in the field office of the Maine Highway Commisson when word came that the platform had collapsed.
He said he ran out in time to see one man slide off the platform and fall about 70 feet to the ground.
Cook said the men were strewn about.
"With others I went to their assistance and gave one man mouth to mouth resuscitation," Cook said.
He added that a young Navy corpsman was at the scene and "he was wonderful. He helped the injured, and I saw him giving mouth to mouth resuscitation to several of them before the ambulances arrived."
The corpsman, Randy Ebrite, 21, of Springfield, Mo., said he was coming off night duty at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Kittery when he saw the accident.
He said: "I saw something fall as I was driving under the bridge. At first I thought it was a sack, and then I saw it was a man."
"I just helped as many of them as I could."
One man was rescued after hanging for two hours on the crazily tilted platform.
Identity of the fourth man killed was withheld, pending arrival of relatives from Rollinsford, N. H., at Portsmouth Hospital.

Nashua Telegraph New Hampshire 1970-06-24