EAST ST. LOUIS, IL. – The body of a barge worker who fell into the Mississippi River while working on a bridge-building project on Wednesday, March 28, was recovered by search teams the following day. According to East St. Louis Police Chief, Michael Floore, divers found the body of 35-year-old Andy Gammon of Park Hills, Mo. on Thursday, March 29. East Saint Louis is located in St. Clair County, Illinois in the southwestern part of the state, about 93 miles southwest of Springfield and 42 miles northwest of Evansville.
The accident occurred at around 10:30 a.m. when the four-wheeled aerial lift Gammon was in toppled into the river from a barge near East St. Louis. Police, coast guard and rescue crews searched the Mississippi north of downtown for more than five hours on Wednesday.
Gammon was employed by MTA Construction Co. of St. Louis. He was taking part in construction of a four-lane, cable-stayed bridge that would link Missouri to southwestern Illinois as the first new span in the congestion-plagued area in four decades. The more than $600 million project is scheduled to be completed by early 2014.
MODOT, the lead agency on the new Mississippi River Bridge, says Gammon was working from a barge just north of the tower on the Illinois side of the river. MODOT says he was in a man lift, similar to a cherry picker, and was likely controlling the machine from the bucket he was riding in. The lift tipped over and went into the river with Gammon still in the bucket.
Andrew Gates with MoDOT said the man life it used to lift a person to the crane, so a person can connect or disconnect construction material. It is unknown if Gammon was wearing a harness or tethered to the machine, but regulations call for it, so it’s likely, but not known for sure.
The preliminary cause of Gammon’s death is drowning, according to the St. Clair County coroner’s office. An autopsy will be conducted Friday, although toxicology tests will take several weeks to be completed.
The incident remains under investigation at this time.