The demolition of large, complex structures is almost by definition hazardous work. The hazards are especially large when the structure is as large and as old as the old Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet on the Outer Banks. On April 14, a section of the bridge broke free and fell into the inlet. One worker died and one worker was injured as a result.
According to officials of the Dare County Sheriff's Office, workers were dismantling the last sections of the bridge when a section of the roadway fell 110 feet into Oregon Inlet. According to media reports, the road deck had been detached from the steel girders that supported the roadway and were then stacked on the yet-to-be removed girders.
The section that was being removed was the last section of roadway and the highest remaining section of the bridge. A worker standing on the remaining section of roadway when it collapsed and fell into Oregon Inlet was killed. Another worker was injured by the collapse.
The exact cause of the collapse or of the worker's death has not been disclosed by any of the several emergency agencies that responded to the mishap. The Bonner Bridge was built in 1963 and was replaced by the Basnight Bridge in 2019.
The family of the man who was killed will be entitled to workers' compensation death benefits, and the man who was injured will be entitled to workers' compensation benefits for whatever injuries he suffered and any lost present and future income. The more complex question is whether any third parties may be liable for the workers' death and injuries. Under North Carolina's workers' compensation statute, the workers' employers are liable for compensation benefits pursuant to the schedule set forth in the statute.
Generally, these benefits fall short of the workers' actual losses. However, the families of the two workers may have what are called "third party claims" against any company working on the demolition whose employees were negligence. Such claims can often add significantly to the workers' and the workers' families recoveries if the negligence can be provide.
Anyone who has suffered an injury or lost a loved one in a work-related accident that may involve the negligence of third parties may benefit from a consultation with an experienced workers' compensation attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can provide an analysis of the evidence and an opinion on the likelihood of recovering any damages from third parties involved in the work.