Laborers Local 660 loses member on Blanchette Bridge project

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Worker killed in construction accident on barge near bridge

The Blanchette Bridge
The Blanchette Bridge

Bridgeton – Work on the Blanchette Bridge rehab project was called off temporarily last month as counselors helped workers grieving the loss of a colleague killed in an accident June 10.

Patrick J. Bray, 51, of Jerseyville, IL, a 31-year member of Laborers Local 660 was fatally injured while working on a barge downstream from the bridge. He was employed by Walsh Construction Co.

Bray was struck by a 55-gallon drum being hoisted by a crane onto the riverbank.

Laborers Local 660 Secretary-Treasurer Philippe Pryor said Bray was working his way along the barge, when the drum slipped out of its harness and struck him.

“It’s hard on everybody,” Pryor said. “The employer had some grief counselors come down. He was a very good member for a long time. A good Laborer and a very qualified man.”

Bray was employed by Walsh Construction Company.

Walsh said the incident was under investigation and issued a statement expressing the company’s condolences to Bray’s family and friends.

"Our deepest, heartfelt sympathy is extended to the friends and family of the deceased, and our thoughts and prayers are with them. The safety and security of our employees is of utmost importance to the Walsh family,” Walsh said. “A thorough investigation has begun to determine the cause of this accident."

A funeral Mass for Bray was held June 14 at Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Jerseyville. Burial was at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Cemetery in Jerseyville.

Laborers Local 660 represents Construction Laborers in the 12 Misssouri counties of St. Charles, Warren, Lincoln, Montgomery, Pike, Ralls, Marion, Shelby, Lewis, Clark, Knox, and Scottland.

The local last experienced an on-the-job worker death in 2000, when a worker was killed in a ditch accident.

The Blanchette Bridge on Interstate 70 over the Missouri River connects St. Louis and St. Charles counties.

A topping out ceremony was held at the bridge May 17 as employees of Walsh Construction installed the last major piece of structural steel for the bridge. (See photo on Page 6)

Since March, crews have installed approximately 2,200 pieces of steel for a total weight of 6.5 million pounds of steel in the truss and 1.5 million pounds of steel girders.  Crews recenlty began pouring the concrete bridge deck.

Despite extreme low river levels in the winter and flood levels in the spring, the contractor and team of local trades have continued on an aggressive schedule, allowing MoDOT to announce that work to rebuild the westbound lanes of the span – at a cost of $64 million – would be finished two months ahead of schedule.

Walsh had one year to complete the project after the bridge closed on Nov. 2.

The work is expected to add 50 more years of use to the span, which was originally built in 1958.

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