Subcontractor working on overpass involved in fatal accident had past safety violations

A subcontractor working on a Bonney Lake overpass Monday when part of the bridge’s concrete wall fell and killed three people has been cited in the past for not protecting its workers from potential falls.

Staton Companies of Eugene, Oregon, was cited in 2012 for three issues defined as serious safety violations by the state Department of Labor and Industries, which oversees workplace safety in Washington.

L&I found the company:

State regulators fined the company $200 for the violations, which were corrected immediately, according to L&I.

Investigators were working Tuesday to determine what caused the piece of a bridge barrier on state Route 410 in Bonney Lake to fall onto the road below, killing Josh and Vanessa Ellis and their 8-month-old son, Hudson.

On the day of the fatal accident, Staton Companies was in charge of removing the bridge’s concrete barrier to make room for a sidewalk expansion, said Woody Edvalson, Bonney Lake’s city clerk.

Work was beginning on the removal project when a piece of the concrete wall fell onto the Ellises’ truck, Edvalson said.

L&I is investigating to determine whether the contractors were following safety regulations, said agency spokeswoman Elaine Fischer.

“Workers on the site may have been exposed to the same hazards and the possibility of serious injury or death,” Fischer wrote in an email. “So our inspection will determine what safety measures were in place to protect the workers from harm.”

Meanwhile, Bonney Lake police are conducting their own investigation of the accident, Edvalson said.

In a written statement, Staton Companies said the company and its subcontractor, American Concrete, are “fully cooperating with Washington state authorities conducting the investigation.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ellis family and with all those involved,” the emailed statement said. “Out of respect for all involved, we will have no further information to offer until the investigation is completed.”

The project’s general contractor, WHH Nisqually Federal Services, has never been inspected by L&I and has no history of safety violations with the state, according to agency records.

Bob Iyall, the company’s chairman and CEO, issued a statement Tuesday, saying the contractor had shut down the state Route 410 project, and that company officials would not comment on the cause of the accident until they had more information.

“Words do not adequately express our grief, sorrow, and sympathy,” Iyall’s statement said.

In 2009, Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Division fined Staton Companies $275 for a workplace safety violation relating to demolition work on a bridge in Portland.

Inspectors said the company violated a requirement that employers — before the start of demolition — must commission an engineering survey to determine whether a structure might collapse unexpectedly, and maintain a written record of that survey.

A Staton Companies representative declined to discuss the company’s past safety violations, except to say that “all citations were resolved immediately.”