Feds blame Elgin company for worker's death on I-90 bridge

  • Investigators scrutinize a construction site at I-90 and Touhy Avenue in Des Plaines where a worker was killed.

    Investigators scrutinize a construction site at I-90 and Touhy Avenue in Des Plaines where a worker was killed. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, April 2016

Updated 10/17/2016 6:43 PM

Federal regulators rebuked an Elgin demolition company and fined it $152,000 for safety violations leading to a worker's death on a Jane Addams Tollway bridge in Des Plaines this spring.

Vicente Santoyo of Berwyn, a father of four, was standing in a lift cutting bracing between two beams to be removed from the bridge at Touhy Avenue when one rolled off a concrete support April 5, falling on him.


U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigators cited Santoyo's employer and tollway subcontractor Omega Demolition Corp. for "overstressing" the 40-ton horizontal beam during demolition. That means the beam wasn't adequately supported, and it buckled, a spokeswoman said.

Three other men working on the Illinois tollway I-90 reconstruction project were injured.

"The fact that this incident was preventable only compounds the tragedy," OSHA's Chicago regional administrator, Ken Nishiyama Atha, said in a statement Wednesday. The government has specific guidelines to prevent beams being overstressed, "a safety violation that directly contributed to the death of this worker," he said.

Omega representatives did not return calls for comment.

Tollway spokesman Dan Rozek said the agency would thoroughly review the report on the "tragic incident" and "take whatever actions are appropriate." The agency is committed to safety and removed Omega from all tollway projects after the fatality, he said.

OSHA has placed Omega Demolition Corp. in its severe violator enforcement program that "focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers" by willful and repeat violations. Omega has been cited by OSHA eight times since 2006, mainly for lead hazards.

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Omega also was penalized for serious health infractions related to training and fitting workers with the correct respirators on the job site, OSHA reported.

Five months after the bridge disaster, the co-owner of Omega Demolition, James D. Gerage of Barrington Hills, was found dead in a burning car in Chicago on Sept. 23.

Company officials are scheduled to meet with OSHA Oct. 25 at an informal conference to discuss the findings. OSHA cited Omega Oct. 3, and the firm has 15 days to contest the findings.

Illinois' chief procurement officer placed Omega under interim suspension from doing business with the tollway and other state agencies on April 18. The subcontractor deviated from its demolition plan by putting a crane supporting the beam in the wrong place, Chief Procurement Officer Ellen Daley said.


Daley lifted the suspension on May 3, after a review of documents from Omega that concluded the company had not committed acts or omissions that indicate it "lacks integrity or honesty."

The I-90 bridge replacement at Touhy is part of a project to rebuild and widen the 62 miles of I-90 between Rockford and the Tri-State Tollway. A different contractor is finishing the bridge at Touhy.

The primary contractor on the segment of toll road where the accident occurred is Judlau Contracting, which has offices in Lisle. A project manager from Judlau and an engineer supervising the Omega work were taken off all tollway projects, Rozek said.

"The tollway offers its deepest sympathies for the families and loved ones of the worker killed in this tragic incident, as well to his co-workers who were injured," Rozek said.


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