Collapse chills Cline Avenue survivor
BRIDGE COLLAPSE: Friday's accident
eerily similar to 1982 tragedy, he says
BY MARC CHASE
This story ran on nwitimes.com
on Sunday, August 21, 2005 12:53 AM CDT
The twisted wreckage of a collapsed bridge on the front page of Donald
Ketchum's Saturday morning paper looked eerily familiar to the
Ketchum said it was as if he was staring at a modern-day photo of the
bridge collapse that killed his brother and nearly took his own life 23
years ago in East Chicago.
As a survivor of the 1982 Cline Avenue bridge collapse -- the worst
industrial accident in Indiana history -- Ketchum hopes public safety
officials thoroughly investigate Friday's collapse of a bridge ramp
being constructed near the convergence of interstates 80, 294 and 94 in
Lansing to determine whether proper supports and safety procedures were
Friday's bridge collapse killed one worker and sent two others to the
hospital. Just a handful of miles east of that site is where Ketchum,
his brother, Billy Bricker, and more than a dozen other construction
workers building the bridge plunged as far as 65 feet when 444 feet of
the Cline Avenue bridge fell in sections like dominoes on April 15,
Bricker was one of 14 workers who died in the collapse. Ketchum
survived, despite the plunge that brought with it shattered limbs and a
"You see where that concrete column is still standing and all of that
steel laying off to the side?" Ketchum asked Saturday, looking at a
photo of the wreckage. "That looks an awful lot like what I remember
looking at when the Cline Avenue bridge went down. It's pretty scary."
Looking at the image is like reliving a real nightmare, Ketchum said.
And he said he had a pretty good idea how the family of the dead worker
and of those injured while working on the Lansing bridge project must
Ketchum recalls not learning of his brother's death until two weeks
following the collapse as he was recovering in a region hospital.
"At first I thought, why was he the one that died and not me," Ketchum
said, noting that Bricker, 24 at the time, had only been working a few
feet away from him when a sound like a thunder clap rang out and the
Cline Avenue bridge crumbled.
"Those people in this recent incident are feeling a lot of anger right
now and all kinds of other emotions," Ketchum said.
Ketchum said he still feels frustrated today regarding the way the
Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration dealt with the
Despite findings that the construction company Ketchum had been working
for committed 13 different violations, an initial fine of $22,680 was
reduced to $6,000, even though the two most serious violations remained
on the company's safety record.
Those two violations alleged that the concrete pads supporting the Cline
Avenue bridge were not capable of handling intended loads and that the
framework and shoring of the bridge was not erected according to
previously approved plans.
Ketchum now hopes that federal OSHA, which has jurisdiction in Illinois,
will investigate the incident thoroughly and hold any violators
"I just hope that if they find something was wrong, that the fines don't
turn out to be a minimal thing," Ketchum said.