Divers Find Body Of Missing Construction Worker - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Divers Find Body Of Missing Construction Worker

About 26 hours after construction accident at the Bay St. Louis Bridge, crews recovered the body of a missing worker. The man, who has not been identified, was one of nine workers thrown into the bay when scaffolding collapsed. Thursday, one of those rescued also died.

When the rescue mission turned into a recovery mission, the searchers vowed to return Friday to bring the missing man back to his family. The massive recovery effort got underway shortly after day break.

"This is a human being who lost their life and we're really concerned to recover him and get him back to his family in a dignified manner," Gulfport Fire Chief Pat Sullivan said.

Everyone knew this would not be an easy job.

"We have a debris field down there and we just don't know, there's a good possibility that he could have been entangled in the debris," Sullivan said.

Fifteen thousand pounds of steel came crashing down when the metal form around what was going to be a piling for the bridge failed. With that came 85 yards of concrete. That's enough to fill 14 concrete mixing trucks.

"This debris is as dangerous to our divers as it was to the construction workers when it collapsed. So the danger is still there," Sullivan said.

More than 50 law enforcers, the Coast Guard and volunteer divers handled different parts of this somber job. Search dogs, high tech gear like sonar scanners and underwater cameras all hade a role to play.

"There's not any tool in our tool box that we're not using right now to try to locate this gentleman," Sullivan said.

After the dogs alerted to something, the divers went in.

"It's very, very dark, real murky, some parts there is no visibility. When you're on the bottom, you're swimming through goo," said Wesley Brantley with the Biloxi Police Department's Dive Team.

An early discovery - someone's tool belt and a harness. After about six hours of searching, divers accomplished their mission by locating the body and bringing him out of the murky sea.

The accident happened on what will become the west bound lanes of the new bridge. Construction workers were not on the job Friday, except for those essential to the recovery effort. There's no word on when the bridge work will resume.      

Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove also released the results of an autopsy conducted on the first victim. Hargrove told WLOX News that, as expected, Alger Pennanman of Jackson died from drowning.

by Al Showers

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