Railroad bridge collapses during demolition in Southern California, kills construction worker

Updated May 27, 2014

The demolition of a railroad bridge in Riverside, California was violently interrupted early Sunday morning when part of the bridge collapsed to Highway 91 below, killing a construction worker in the process.

The Pachappa Railroad Overcrossing was being demolished as part of a $232 million project to add carpool lanes to the freeway, according to a report from the Riverside Press-Enterprise. The span will be replaced by a longer one once the highway is widened.

The collapse occurred around 3:15 a.m. Sunday as the bridge was being cut in half. One side of the bridge was supported by a crane while Okesene Faasalele, 59, worked on the other side tethered with a safety harness. The half of the bridge Faasalele was standing on fell suddenly taking him with it, despite the fact that it had been attached to the support pillar in the middle of the freeway.

Faasalele worked for Hard Rock Equipment Rentals in Corona. Faasalele was a Samoan immigrant and lived in Long Beach for 20 years, working in construction. His son Fale Faasalele told the Press-Enterprise that his father “died doing something he loved.”

Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the collapse especially because a second railroad bridge demolition is in the plans for July or August in Grand Terrace. That $170 million project will add carpool lanes to a section of highway as well.

Officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating as well and are expected to make inquiries with the California Department of Transportation, its contractors working the project and Hard Rock Equipment.