Phoenix Fire Capt. Jake Van Hook provides update on efforts to rescue a worker trapped at a construction site at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix.
Nathan J. Fish, The Republic | azcentral.com
A drill-rig operator is believed to be dead following a work-site incident at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, and officials say it could be days before they can recover his body.
The decision to shift from a rescue mission to a recovery phase was based on the length of time since the initial incident, eyewitness accounts and investigations, officials said late Tuesday morning.
The worker had been on the drill rig when it overturned. Officials said he had just excavated a hole Monday morning and was moving the heavy equipment when it happened.
His name has not been released.
Crews spent more than 12 hours trying to clear the collapsed equipment but ceased operations around 11:45 p.m. Monday because of safety concerns, a Phoenix Fire Department official said.
Construction workers were able to safely remove the drill rig from the collapsed hole Tuesday, fire officials said.
Removal involved using two large cranes. The rig next will need to be moved and stabilized to a safe location, which could take several more hours into Tuesday evening, fire officials said.
Once the rig is moved, efforts to remove large amounts of dirt will take place, which could still take a few days, fire officials said.
The incident occurred just south of Sky Harbor Boulevard, near the West Economy parking lot and west of terminals 3 and 4. The site was on Sky Harbor property, as construction is being done for the PHX Sky Train.
The Sky Train guideway work — the track the cars ride on — is being overseen by contractor Hensel Phelps. The Colorado-based company also worked on earlier stages of Sky Train construction. It completed a $343 million project in 2012 that included the 120-foot elevated bridge over an airport taxiway and an underpass along 44th Street below the Union Pacific Railroad.
Hensel Phelps issued a statement to The Arizona Republic on Tuesday afternoon.
“Our focus right now is on supporting the recovery effort and on supporting the family,” the statement said. “The identity of the missing worker is not being released out of respect for the family.”
“Hensel Phelps places the highest value on safety and, upon completion of the recovery effort, this incident will be thoroughly investigated so we understand what led to this incident.”
Praise for company
The city of Phoenix raved about the company’s work, according to a testimonial on Hensel’s website.
Jay DeWitt, then-deputy director of the airport, said, “I would absolutely hire Hensel Phelps again. They were a terrific partner throughout the design phase and construction. Their estimates proved to be on target, their fee was fair, and they didn’t nickel and dime us with changes along the way. I would rate them outstanding, a perfect 10 with respect to the quality of their staff. They provided the best qualified and most professional staff (from top to bottom) of the many, many contractors I’ve worked with over the years.”
The missing employee was working for Case Foundation, a subcontractor of Hensel Phelps, Sky Harbor spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez said.
“Our number 1 concern at this time is for the missing worker, the worker’s family and the safety of those who are working to find the missing employee,” she said.
Case, based in Illinois, calls itself a full-service deep foundation specialist. The company’s parent company, the Keller Group, was a sponsor of the industry’s Construction Safety Week earlier this month.
Keller has a Think Safe program with a goal of zero incidents.
The Industrial Commission of Arizona, which enforces state laws relating to Arizona worker safety, is investigating the accident, spokesman Trevor Laky said, declining further comment.
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