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Crane razing Texas bridge topples

1 killed, 1 injured as rig plunges into the river

The workers were trying to loosen the joints of a beam, or girder, when another beam also became loose and caused the crane to topple yesterday into the Colorado River, authorities said. The workers were trying to loosen the joints of a beam, or girder, when another beam also became loose and caused the crane to topple yesterday into the Colorado River, authorities said. (Harry Cabluck/ Associated Press)
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Associated Press / July 31, 2008

SMITHVILLE, Texas - A crane removing steel beams while dismantling an old bridge over a central Texas river became overloaded and toppled yesterday, killing one worker and injuring another, officials said.

The crane smashed into a lift basket where the two men were working, knocking one off and killing him, Bastrop County Sheriff Rosanna Abreo said.

The bridge in Smithville is about 75 feet above the Colorado River, but it was unclear how far the man fell or whether he landed in the water or the riverbed.

The workers were trying to loosen the joints of a beam, or girder, when another beam also became loose and caused the crane to topple, said Marcus Cooper, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

"The momentum of the girder overloaded the crane," Cooper said. The base of the crane, which was on the riverbed at the time, tumbled into the water.

The injured worker was taken to a hospital. His condition was not immediately available. It was unclear whether the worker operating the crane was hurt. None of the workers' identities were released.

The crane was removing the old Loop 230 bridge, which has been dismantled piece by piece for months. What remains is near a new bridge that replaced it.

Capital Excavation of Austin, the primary contractor for the project, didn't immediately return calls seeking comment. The employees both worked for Stomper Demolition in Euless, but the company said it did not own the crane.

Smithville is about 45 miles southeast of Austin.

There have been several deadly crane accidents around the country this year, including one in Houston this month that killed four workers and injured seven. Crane-related deaths have also occurred in New York, Miami, and Las Vegas.

Texas led the nation with 26 crane-related fatalities in 2005 and 2006, according to federal statistics. Cranes in Texas operate without any state or local oversight, leaving that job to federal regulators.

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