Construction worker killed when 45-ton beam falls along highway

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A construction worker killed after a 45-ton bridge beam fell along I-90 over Touhy Avenue in northwest suburban Des Plaines has been identified. (WLS)

A construction worker who was killed after a 45-ton bridge beam fell along I-90 over Touhy Avenue in northwest suburban Des Plaines has been identified. Three other construction workers were hurt.

Sources identified the victim as Vicente Santoyo, 47, of Berwyn. He would have turned 48 next week.

Investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said crews were removing large beams from the site early Tuesday morning. While cutting steel bracing between two beams in half around 2:50 a.m., the load rolled off a pier support and came down on them.

OSHA said preliminary reports on the "tragic and preventable incident" suggest a strap or chain that was supposed to support the beam may have failed.

"The girder came down. It's 187 feet long, 45 tons of steel that came down," said Bill Kushner, Des Plaines police.

Santoyo was rushed in critical condition to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, where he later died. The other three workers suffered minor injuries and were taken to Lutheran General or Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights for treatment.

Touhy will be shut down between Wolf and Lee for the ongoing investigation until Wednesday. Two lanes of eastbound I-90 are also blocked in that area. To get around the closure, drivers should take Oakton, Howard Avenue or Algonquin Road to go east-west. They should not take Higgins Road, since it turns into Touhy.

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 a previous statement from the Illinois Tollway.

The project requires the reconstruction of I-90 bridges over local roads between Illinois 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 in Rosemont.

Larry Joswiak, OSHA's acting area director in Des Plaines, said the administration is investigating Elgin-based Omega Demolition Corporation, who employed Santoyo, and New York-based Judlau Contracting Inc., the general contractor at the site.

Omega has had seven inspections since 2006, which have mostly been health inspections due to the company's work with lead abatement. Omega has been issued nine citations since 2006, OSHA said. Two health violations in January 2011 were related to the health inspections. The company paid minor fines for those violations: $3,465 in 2011 and $3,000 in 2006.

OSHA said in 2014, 4,251 workers were killed in the private industry. One in five of those deaths were in construction. Falls were the leading cause, followed by electrocution, beings struck by an object and getting caught in between objects.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.
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