Fifth death in five years stops work on $2.3bn Florida road project

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has suspended work on the $2.3bn, "I-4 Ultimate" highway improvement project in Orlando after a worker was killed by a falling concrete beam, becoming the fifth to die on the project since it began in February 2015.

Ulises Corrales Ibarra, 37, died after being struck by the beam on Saturday, 28 September, at an interchange near Lake Lucerne on the 34km highway.

Another worker was injured by the beam, but survived.

WFTV reported Orlando Fire District Chief Walter Lewis as saying, "We found that one patient was already transported from the scene by bystanders to the hospital. Unfortunately, another was heavily trapped. He succumbed to his injuries, and we remained on scene to assist with removing him." 

The FDOT met contractor, SGL Constructors on Monday, 30 September, "to discuss plans, protocols and safety measures" on the overhaul of central Florida’s busiest road.

SGL is a joint venture between Skanska USA, Granite Construction and Salini Impregilo subsidiary, Lane Construction.

Work was suspended along all 21 miles of the scheme, apart from emergency maintenance. An investigation into the accident continues, and FDOT said no girder erection or installation would be performed on the project "until this investigation progresses substantially and the root causes of Saturday’s incident can be understood".

SGL has engaged a forensic engineer to assist with the investigation.

An earlier analysis by the Orlando Sentinel of FDOT records found that, as well as the fatalities on the scheme, there had been more than 160 injuries over the past four years, a rate that is slightly above average for the US.

About 25 of those injuries caused workers to take time off work, and eight were admitted to hospital. At least 16 workers suffered broken or fractured bones, nine received burns and two lost fingers.

The I-4 Ultimate scheme involves the replacement of more than 140 bridges, the reconfiguration of 15 interchanges and the reconstruction of the entire road’s pavement. Work is expected to be complete in 2021.

Image: The Hughey Avenue section of the I-4 project (Supplied photo)

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