Missing man found in bay

Published 10:07 pm Saturday, June 16, 2007

Divers on Friday recovered the body of a missing worker, bringing the death toll to two from a construction accident a day before on a U.S. 90 bridge.

The worker was not immediately identified.

“We don’t know if he was in or under the concrete, we just found him after we were able move some of the debris,” said Gulfport Fire Chief Pat Sullivan, who led the search efforts under the Bay bridge.

The unidentified victim and eight others plunged off the bridge into the Bay of St. Louis Thursday. Divers began searching for them Thursday and found all but one. Eight workers were taken to area hospitals. One of them, Alger Pennanman, 51, of Jackson, was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at a hospital, said Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove. The others were in stable condition, according to hospital officials.

An underwater camera and several cadaver dogs were used to comb the bay early Friday, Sullivan said. He said dive teams searched under the span at the center of the bridge and used an industrial crane to split submerged concrete chunks to help find the missing man.

Officials at the scene Thursday said workers were filling a large cage of rebar, used to reinforce a concrete section of the bridge, just after noon. A large machine vibrates the steel basket to settle the wet concrete and remove bubbles.

While the concrete-filled cage was shaking, it slipped off the bridge and tumbled into the water below. Harrison County Fire Marshal George Mixon said the concrete-filled cage and the workers fell nearly 50 feet.

Work on the bridge remained at a standstill Friday during the search.

The workers involved in the accident were employed by Granite Archer Western, the contractor in charge of building the new bridge. Company spokesman Dan Galvin wouldn’t release any additional information about those killed or injured.

The U.S. 90 bridge is a two-mile span that was built to replace one that was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina and partially opened to traffic last month. The $267 million bridge, which connects Bay St. Louis with Pass Christian to the east, is scheduled to be completed in November.

The bridge is one of two major spans on the coast that was destroyed by the storm. The Biloxi bridge that connects Harrison County to Jackson County was also wiped out and is currently being reconstructed. Two lanes are slated to open on that bridge later this year, with the full four lanes opened by next year.