Five High Speed Rail workers injured in construction accident, Cal OSHA says

Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Two people are trapped under collapsed structure in Northwest Fresno
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Two men working on the high-speed rail project were hurt and trapped under rebar Saturday afternoon in Northwest Fresno.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- These are believed to be the first significant injuries on this massive project, which continues to face questions about its financial viability.

The accident occurred Saturday, just north of Fresno at the San Joaquin River crossing next to Highway 99. According to state investigators a tower, made of reinforced steel rods fell over, injuring five workers. Two required hospitalization.

The California Highway Patrol is investigating the cause of the mishap because it occurred on state property. Cal OSHA is investigating the injury aspect.

In a written statement Cal OSHA Communications Director Jeanne Mairie Duvall told Action News: "Rebar collapsed injuring five employees, two of which were hospitalized. DOSH is currently investigating. Cal/OSHA has six months after opening an investigation to issue any citations, if appropriate. Until that time, the case is open and confidential."

The re-bar tower was the framework for concrete supports that will hold tracks over the San Joaquin River. Just one of 17 locations in the 29-mile section where crews are on the job.

Lee Ann Eager said,"There's about 1500 people working on the construction sites and about half of them are from Fresno County."

Lee Ann Eager of the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation notes the project is having a major financial impact on the Central Valley.

"Already just from High-Speed Rail, and construction and people working here they have put in about 3.5 billion dollars into our valley right now."

But the project's finances remain a question for Assembly Member Jim Patterson. He believes recent revelations about additional cost overruns indicate problems, and he is requesting an emergency audit of the High

Speed Rail Authorities books by the state auditors office.

"The question is whether they are going to really complete it and whether they will have a system that works," said Jim Patterson.

While the projects financing and other issues have created political divides over High-Speed Rail, Patterson says he does not want to politicize the recent accident. Saturday's tower collapse is believed to be the first significant workplace accident during three years of construction on California High-Speed Rail.

We have not been told the condition of the two workers who were hospitalized in Saturday's accident. The highway patrol described their injuries as moderate, one may have suffered a fractured back.