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Bulldozer slides into water at port, killing operator

  • Author: Lisa Demer
  • Updated: September 29, 2016
  • Published August 17, 2011

A construction worker on the Port of Anchorage expansion project was killed Wednesday afternoon when his bulldozer slid into the water and trapped him beneath it, according to the Anchorage Fire Department.

Fire dispatchers got a 911 call at 1:12 p.m. reporting that a bulldozer had slid into Cook Inlet and the driver was trapped underneath, said Al Tamagni, Fire Department spokesman. The first fire crews got to the scene by 1:22 p.m. and tried to revive him but couldn't.

"By the time we were able to get access to him, he was deceased," Tamagni said.

Construction crews had to first stabilize the bulldozer by attaching it by cable to a crane already at the construction site, he said.

A dive team and other rescuers assembled to get the worker out of the water. He was pronounced dead at the scene just before 2 p.m., Tamagni said.

Officials had not released his name as of Wednesday evening but port spokeswoman Emily Cotter confirmed that he worked for West Construction Co. West was hired in 2010 for the ongoing port expansion project. Brad West, company president, said by email that he would be better able to discuss the accident today.

"He was my friend and (we) worked together since we were kids 36 years ago," West said.

The port expansion project has been stalled because of problems with installing steel cells that are supposed to become the new dock face and hold back tons of gravel and dirt. A number of steel sheets were damaged during installation under a different contractor.

West Construction was hired to assess the damage and work on repairs.

This summer, the contractor was excavating gravel already in place to inspect the steel sheets, and then backfilling the cells, said Diana Carlson, with Integrated Concepts and Research Corp., which is managing the port construction program.

The worker killed Wednesday was pushing dirt toward the cells when the area he was working in collapsed beneath him, Tamagni said. The bulldozer landed in the water and tilted to the left.

"He jumped out the right side and then bulldozer tipped back over the right side on top of him," Tamagni said. He didn't know whether the worker drowned or died from injuries.

Alaska Occupational Safety and Health, a section of the state Department of Labor, is investigating Wednesday's incident, said Steve Standley, chief of enforcement.

Officials wouldn't allow reporters onto port property until hours after the incident and said no one would be allowed near the accident site.

City officials said they are saddened by what happened.

"This is a tragic day, and my thoughts and prayers are with the victim's family," port director Bill Sheffield said in a written statement. "We are confident that federal contractors will work to learn what went wrong and to ensure that all of their employees are safe."

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan also extended condolences to the worker's friends and family.

Daily News reporters Rosemary Shinohara and Casey Grove contributed to this report.


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