Worker killed, 3 injured when beam falls at suburban construction site

Image 1 of 3

OSHA is investigating after one worker was killed and three others injured when a 45-ton steel beam fell at a construction site under a Jane Addams Memorial Tollway bridge early Tuesday in northwest suburban Des Plaines.

The workers were doing construction work about 3:40 a.m. on the I-90 bridge over Touhy Avenue, just east of Wolf Road, when an overpass beam fell, according to Des Plaines Police Chief Bill Kushner.

The workers were underneath the beam on “a couple of different lifts” when it collapsed, Des Plaines Fire Chief Alan Wax told reporters at the scene.

Kushner said the 45-ton, 187-foot-long beam “slipped during the lifting process” as part of an ongoing construction project on I-90 bridges.

OSHA spokesman Scott Allen said preliminary reports “suggest a strap or chain supporting part of the beam failed, allowing the beam to collapse.”

One of the workers, 47-year-old Vincente Santoyo, was taken to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge where he was pronounced dead, Kushner said. The Cook County medical examiner’s office confirmed the fatality.

Santoyo lived in Berwyn with his wife and four children. Neighbors say he was a hard worker just trying to make life better for his kids.

"He was a good man. He moved out of state to give his kids a better life and I guess it didn't work out. He came back, got his house back and everything and now come to find out he was one of the guys on the beam and now he's dead," said neighbor Francisco Cervantes.

Another worker also went to Lutheran General, while two more were taken with minor injuries to Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, Wax said. They were all treated and released.

OSHA has opened an investigation into Omega Demolition Corp. of Elgin, which employed the deceased worker; and Judlau Contracting Inc. of New York, general contractor on site.

Allen said OSHA compliance officers are on the scene interviewing witnesses and employees.

“OSHA is currently on scene and will conduct a thorough investigation into this tragic and preventable incident,” Larry Joswiak, OSHA’s acting director in Des Plaines, said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the worker.”

The federal agency will also interview company officials and check safety records before making a final report on the incident, which could take up to six months, Allen said.

Omega Demolition has been issued nine citations since 2006, mostly focused on lead hazards nationwide, according to the federal agency. The company has paid a total of $6,465 in fines for the violations.

Touhy Avenue was closed between Wolf and Lee for several hours following the incident, as were two inbound lanes and one outbound lane of I-90, police said. All lanes on both Touhy and the tollway were reopened to traffic by about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The construction is part of the $2.5 billion I-90 Rebuilding and Widening Project between Elgin and I-294. The eastern portion of I-90 is being rebuilt to provide four lanes in each direction between Randall Road and I-294, according to the Illinois Tollway.

The project requires reconstruction of I-90 bridges over local roads between Route 53 and I-294, including Golf Road, Arlington Heights Road, Busse Road, Oakton Street, Mount Prospect Road, Wolf Road, Touhy Avenue, Mannheim Road and Higgins Road.