A tense hush hung over the car bridge construction site over Putah Creek on Friday afternoon as Winters city workers in yellow vests, police and fire personnel, and construction workers stood vigil over a worksite accident that occurred earlier that morning.
Although several hours had gone by, the bodies of two deceased Disney Construction workers still lay under yellow plastic sheets, their work boots poking out askew from under the edges. Yolo County coroner’s officials identified the victims as Marcus Zane Powell, 25, of Redding, and Glenn Hodgson, 49, of Richmond.
They died when a cable snapped and their crane basket fell approximately 100 feet to the bridge footing at the construction site.
Above them, the tips of two cranes nearly touched; frayed cables swayed from one. The two workers were hoisted in a basket at the top of one crane, attempting to fix the other with the frayed cables, when the cables holding the basket suddenly became loose and the basket plummeted to the ground.
Had they missed the footing support, they’d have fallen another 30 to 40 feet to the bottom of the hole that will hold the bridge footing.
According to Winters Fire Chief Aaron McAlister, emergency crews were called to the site just before 7 a.m., and Winters Fire Department and AMR ambulance personnel were on the scene within moments. Both men were pronounced dead at the scene.
Other agencies soon arrived to provide assistance, including the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Office, and the Yocha Dehe Fire Department, but once at the scene, there wasn’t much that could be done other than to cordon off the worksite and surrounding streets with yellow tape.
According to McAlister, there didn’t appear to be any wrongdoing by any worker. For reasons yet unknown, the cables just snapped. Cal-OSHA workers were on the scene but declined to comment while their investigation is underway.
City staff set up an emergency staging area at the Winters Community Center, only yards away from the accident site, and remained there to assist the victims’ co-workers and family members as they arrived.
Mayor Cecilia Aguiar-Curry and City Manager John Donlevy both expressed shock and sadness, as well as appreciation and praise for the two police chaplains, Jim Wilson and Robert Duvall, who were there to comfort co-workers and relatives.
“The chaplains have made such a difference,” said Donlevy, standing on the bridge in a hard hat and yellow vest just above the accident scene. He nodded his head toward Wilson, sitting on a roadblock with his arm around one of the Disney workers, near bridge entrance. Donlevy said the worker was operating the crane at the time the cable broke and that he was the father of one of the victims.
“Can you imagine what he’s going through?” Donlevy said quietly.
He added that people forget how dangerous construction sites are, pointing out that “it’s not thousands of pounds, but in some instances, thousands of tons” of equipment and material that people are working with.
“When that stuff falls, it can be a catastrophe.”
“It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances,” commented Aguiar-Curry. “All of our hearts go out to the families and co-workers that had to experience this tragedy.”
Down on the creek bank near the cranes, Cal-OSHA investigators combed through the area, attempting to determine what caused the accident. Donlevy said construction at the site will halt until the investigation is complete.